Friday, January 14, 2011

Leadership races both entering important phase

The Liberal and NDP races are both finally under way, but much of the work right now is behind the scenes, as candidates scramble to sign up new party members who will support them.
That's critical, especially for the New Democrat hopefuls. Their leadership ballot is April 17; to be able to vote, people have to be party members by Jan. 17. The Liberal contest is Feb. 26, but anyone who joins by Feb. 4 will be able to vote
So the serious candidates and their camps are rushing to sign up new members. A few thousand new party members - if they vote - could tip the balance.
It's striking how much the leadership campaigns have come to resemble election campaigns, with pollsters, full-time staff and - paid or not - and tightly scripted agendas.
It's also striking, especially on the Liberal side, how important lobbyists and government relations consultants are to the candidates' efforts.
The practitioners increasingly move from lobbying politicians to helping them raise money or win elections or leadership races and then back to lobbying the same politicians.
Take the well-connected Progressive Group. The firm's Patrick Kinsella, of B.C. Rail fame, is helping Christy Clark. Mark Jiles, also of the Progressive Group, is assisting George Abbott's campaign, as is Sarah Weddell of National Public Relations, another company that sells companies advice on getting government to see things their way.
And the emails I get from Kevin Falcon's campaign come from the Pace Group. Norman Stowe, its managing partner is supporting Falcon; the company's vice-president for media relations is handling communications for the leadership contest. The Pace Group has millions of dollars worth of government contracts and advises others on dealing with governments.
And it's striking how much money these campaigns will cost. The New Democrats have set a campaign spending limit of $175,000 for candidates; the Liberals are rumoured to be imposing a $450,000 limit per candidate.
The parties also differ on donations.
The New Democrats have set a $2,500 limit on contributions. The idea is that large donations can create real or perceived conflicts of interest - that a successful candidate will be indebted to big backers, or that shape his actions to suit them.
The Liberals have no limits. A single business, for example, could entirely fund the campaign of the leadership candidate of its choice.
Both parties have to live by the Elections Act, which requires public disclosure of donations.
But the New Democrats have added a useful refinement. Candidates will have to publicly report all donations of more than $250 before party members vote.
That's a much more meaningful measure. If the sources of a candidates' cash cause concern, members will have a chance to ask questions and consider the issue before voting.
Once the membership sign-up deadlines are past, the leadership candidates will turn to courting the current party faithful, setting out a platform that differentiates them from their rivals and trying to show they are popular enough to win the next election.
The last task is important. It's one thing to appeal to people already in your party's camp. But most sensible party members will be looking for candidate who can win the next election, not one who offers the prospect of a noble defeat.
At this point, that might be good news for George Abbott, particularly if Christy Clark and Kevin Falcon end up running hard against each other and raise the fear of divisions in the party.
It's harder to figure out which New Democrat offers the best prospects for electoral success. John Horgan, Mike Farnworth and, likely, Adrian Dix, are credible candidates. (Harry Lali and Nicholas Simons are unlikely likely to persuade Liberal voters that they offer a better plan for the province.)
And none of the main NDP candidates represents renewal - Dix, Farnworth, Horgan and Lali are all associated with the discredited New Democrat government of the 1990s.
Footnote: The challenge for candidates in both parties is to stake out a distinctive position without attacking other hopefuls. That's important both to keep the party united and because no candidate is likely to get a majority on the first ballot; alienating supporters of other candidates could be costly.


olive ridley said...

Nice summary, the NDP process definitely seems more transparent. One question, what is John Horgan's connection with the old NDP government? He's only been an MLA since 2005. Was he doing something else for them? I am recent to BC, so I am missing some context here.

Mike Johansen said...

Horgan was a Ministerial Assistant to Glen Clark (Minister of Employment and Investment).

Later Horgan was head of Glen Clark's political staff.

Anonymous said...

when passing judgement on the discreditted govt. of the 90`s as a good post media servant,don`t forget to mention fast ferries,fast ferries fast insult a lot of working people when you parrot the big lie about what was a decade of stability and hope for many common people before campbells white collar crime spree took ober.

Anonymous said...

Paul, you should talk with your colleague Will McMartin about what you describe as the discredited New Democrat government of the 1990s.

Ray Blessin

DPL said...

The Pace guys are sure covering their bets with the Libs. As for fast ferries, it brought a lot of work and skills training to BC companies and workers, with spin offs to local eating places etc. The boats are working well some where off shore after the Campbell government basically gave them away. When all else fails the pro Campbell group bring up the fast ferries as something the blame on the previous government.The total cost of those boats was less than the overrun on a Vancouver convention center

Anonymous said...

It is time to stop blaming the NDP for the disasters the BC Liberals are bringing to this province. If they attack the BC Liberals, they are attacked for attacking the Libs. If they aren't aggressive enough, a very subjective opinion, the NDP are attacked for being to meek. _I have heard several reports and interviews where the NDP pointed out the flaws in the omitted issues the Libs have since brought forward. I attended NDP rallies during the election campaign where the NDP slammed the liberal performance. None of that was reported, in fact the MSM did not even attend these political events. Nor did a lot of you. The public did not hear what the NDP was saying due to this boycott. And most of you missed it as well. These policies, HST (one commented the "horse sh*t tax"), IPP's, cutbacks to health and education etc. were not discussed during the campaign by the Liberals, but the NDP did raise them._Blame the liberals for their own short comings. The NDP left office with a billion dollar surplus.
As Kim Pollock from The Tyee stated in "FailedTaxCuts"
"The Liberal record in these departments actually trails that of the previous government. While the New Democrats were in office between 1991 and 2001, manufacturing output grew by 88 per cent. Excluding the forest sector, growth was 106 per cent during that decade. Since then, manufacturing growth fell to just one per cent, while non-forest sector manufacturing saw growth of just 30 per cent."

Kyla T. said...

Why hold NDP candidates association with the "discredited" NDP government of the 1990s up as a negative when all of the Liberal candidates are associated with the more recently and even more discredited Liberal government of the 2000s?

Dave said...

Kyla T. nailed it. The NDP government was indeed discredited at the turn of the century, but looking back from 2011, it seems pretty good.

Rod Smelser said...

I wonder if Paul Willcocks has any information on how NDP's Baker's Dozen will be acting during this campaign.

Two of them, Lali and Simons, are candidates. Another, Norm MacDonald, has said his is supporting Mike Farnworth. That leaves 10 of them unaccounted for, and they have proven that their reaction is critical.

The critical question is simply this. Of the three big candidates, Dix, Farnworth, and Hogan, is there any one of them whom the Baker's Dozen would find simply unacceptable. And what would they do about it, and how long would it be before they acted?

Anonymous said...


The so-called Bakers' Dozen were united by one thing alone: a shared dissatisfaction with Carole James's ineffectual leadership. In that respect, they reflected widespread discontent within the Party at James's self-indulgent decision to remain as leader through a third election campaign.

That James was unable to command the confidence of 40% of the caucus speaks volumes about her limited political skills. So too did her bitter, self-pitying resignation speech. With the exception of a handful of Party apparatchiks, her departure is unlamented.

The new NDP leader will have a mandate directly from the membership. Whether it be Dix, Farnworth, or Horgan, he'll be a welcome change from the bland and wooden CJ. The intentions of individual members of the "Bakers' Dozen" matter not a whit. They are yesterday's news--except to an NDP-hostile media and a handful of CJ fans.