Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Resignation brings a new set of problems

Gordon Campbell's resignation was inevitable. He lost the confidence of British Columbians and, finally, of at least some within the Liberal ranks.
But the timing was a surprise and leaves the party, government and province in a tough spot.
I expected Campbell to stick around and defend the HST in the run up to next September's referendum. Then he could leave and a new Liberal leader could declare the tax battle in the past, say lessons had been learned and pledge a fresh start.
That didn't work. Campbell faced increasing internal discontent - note Energy Minister Bill Bennett's criticism of the premier's autocratic decision-making on resource minstry restructuring - that increased when his televised address last week was a failure.
The early departure creates big problems. The Liberal party executive has six months to call a leadership convention. The latest date would be in May.
The HST referendum is set for Sept. 24. That means a new Liberal leader faces months either campaigning in favour of the HST or dodging questions about the tax. Either way, public anger about the tax and the incompetent way it was introduced would fix immediately on the new leader.
The leadership race will also be run with the tax still a live issue. That's bad news for potential candidates from within the current cabinet, like Rich Coleman, Kevin Falcon, George Abbott or Mike de Jong.
They have all defended the HST and backed the government's position that it was not possible or necessary to consult the public. They have all supported the claim the tax "wasn't on the radar" during the election campaign, even though talks on implementing it started days after the vote. They have supported, they insisted, Campbell's actions.
The same actions that so angered the public that he had to resign.
Those are problems for the Liberal party. (Although they could be eased by moving the referendum date up to the spring.)
But months of uncertainty are also bad news for the government and the province.
The government had big, if vague, plans for changes to the education system, for example. Those are stalled. The major shuffle of resource industries to speed project approvals announced last week will slow as all involved wait to see what the new leader thinks.
And work on next year's budget, to be presented in February, will move into high gear in coming months. Absent a leader, decisions on everything from health spending to tax policy will be put off.
This is all coming as the province emerges from a recession and businesses and consumer wait to see if the HST will survive the referendum (or, for that matter, whether the Liberal government will survive recall attempts).
The uncertainty will be damaging.
It's a sad end for Campbell, no matter what people think of his time in government. He rode into office with considerable goodwill in 2001 (in part because the former NDP government was so loathed). And he was re-elected twice. No one has ever challenged his work ethic or commitment to the job. His enthusiasms - for First Nations treaties, health reform, action on climate change and all those other great goals - were compelling.
But they were also short-lived. And as time went on they were overshadowed by broken promises and a sense that this was a one-man government not much interested in the views of anyone outside a like-minded inner circle. It was not just the public's views that were discounted; Liberal MLAs weren't consulted about the HST or a host of other policy directions either.
That was too bad. Leaders, unless they are careful, ended up surrounded by people who think like they do and are far more likely to say "great idea, chief" than they are to raise concerns - either their own or their constituents.
So premiers come to believe, for example, that the reason people oppose the HST is that they are just too dim to recognize the premier's wisdom.
And eventually, they stand in front of the TV cameras offering their resignations.
Footnote: The Liberals should be looking ruefully at that 15 per cent tax cut. It reduced revenue by $1.2 billion over the next two years without saving Campbell's job. That's money a new leader could have used to build quick public support, either through tax cuts or an expansion of needed services.


Anonymous said...

Has it ever occurred to you that you are to “journalism” what Campbell became to BC Politics ? In other words, you are part of the problem. As much as people like Campbell need to retire, so do lazy journalists who editorialize in place of doing hard work and actual research. At least Campbell knew when his time was up. How will you reach the same inevitable conclusion ? I look forward to your reponse And by the the way, just watch the rapid leftists comments that will attack this post The fact that your blog has become another haven for the left is clear evidence that your objective days are done. Will you admit to the obvious ?

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonychicken,
It's obvious you don't like Paul's brand of journalism or his opinions. You have nothing constructive to say you only gripe that he isn't a blind Lib.cheerleader such as yourself.I find Paul's comments to be overly fair,compared to mine,as well as thoughtful and reasoned as to how a Lib. may come to their decision on a particular point.
As for research,that's easy these low intellect Libs. leave plenty of loose ammo laying around.
The problem is that there aren't more journalists like Paul that honestly question the actions and motives of our leaders.Especially when they commit so many truly despicable,needless,senseless and spiteful acts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr.Elder for adding credibility to my point in such an expedited manner. Interesting that Mr.Wilcocks continues to maintain a cone of silence.

Dawn Steele said...

Paul, you make an excellent point.

As you note, Campbell had many strengths - but he sowed the seeds of his eventual downfall from Day 1 by relying on a tight circle of yes-people for guidance and responding with hostility and banishment to anyone who dared to contradict him.

That was illustrated right up to the end when he excluded Linda Reid, the only MLA in his caucus who actually knows something about ECD, in forming a committee of Liberal MLAs to guide his early learning plans.

That's how dictators operate - they sometimes manage to accomplish a lot more than those confined by the chains of democracy, but they always over-reach, crash and burn in the end.

His incredibly short-attention span (or intensely political focus) also meant - sadly for his legacy - that his major accomplishments were mostly shallow holograms that successfully generated short term political capital but never achieved lasting substance.

Amazing that a man who was obviously intelligent, well-read and a strong strategic thinker never saw the classic trap or how he was his own nemesis all along.

Anonymous said...

I don`t see it! how can you say were coming out of a recession? it`s only just begun for this once decent province.we`re in for a world of hurt thanks to the treacherous thief who is just making his getaway.

kootcoot said...

Anonochicken sez:

"Thank you Mr.Elder for adding credibility to my point in such an expedited manner. Interesting that Mr.Wilcocks continues to maintain a cone of silence."

It's good that you're here to maintain the integrity of the "CONE OF IGNORANCE!"

Gordon Campbells exit is analogous to a thief fleeing the scene of his crimes. The whole last two weeks, almost 2 billion dollars of tax cuts (mostly to the most well off again of course) one quarter of a million dollar infomercial, and six million dollar bribe to buy the silence of Basi and Virk has not been done to promote the interests of British Columbians.

No, the two billion dollar plus Hail Mary week for the Gord has been just like the rest of his 25 years of public service - a co-ordinated attack on public assets to benefit Mr. Campbell and his "friends!"

His colleagues in the BC LIEberal Party will have to be happy with the platinum plated pensions and future directorships on the boards of grateful robber barons because their political careers are over and they'll be lucky to avoid defending against criminal charges in many cases. Mine you, their best insurance against facing charges are Leonard Krog and Carole James - maybe they don't want to set any precedents that would limit them if they get a chance to be guarding the hen house down the road!

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a "leftist" journalist who is on the payroll of a mainstream publication.

It just does not exist.