Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's wrong with New Democrats?

I almost choked on my coffee when I read that Dale Lovick was calling for Carole James to be dumped as NDP leader.
What is wrong with this party?
Lovick is on the NDP riding association executive in Nanaimo-North Cowichan. He told Michael Smyth of The Province that the executive recently passed a motion calling on James to step down while a leadership contest takes place.
This from a cabinet minister who stayed loyal, at least publicly, to Glen Clark until the bitter end.
Lovick never called for Clark’s resignation or expressed doubts about the NDP government’s direction.
Now he thinks James should go.
His credentials aren’t great. Lovick was part of an NDP team - a cabinet minister - who ran the party into the ground. People saw the government as dishonest and incompetent and loathed the New Democrats. Lovick and company’s legacy was the NDP’s 2001 election performance - 22 per cent of the vote and two seats.
Today, a recent poll puts the New Democrats at 47 per cent, enough to win a big majority. James doesn’t great approval ratings, but she’s by far people’s first choice.
And Lovick and others are calling for a leadership change.
It’s good NDP riding associations feel free to express their opinions. It’s bad that they seem so foolish.

Come on, folks, let's drink and drive more: Coleman

The weirdness of things in this province continue to amaze.
Solicitor General Rich Coleman — in charge of public safety and increasing alcohol consumption — has to be the first mainstream politician to urge a little more drinking and driving as a good thing.
And his advice that people should feel free to have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and drive home because they would be under the .05 limit is just flat-out wrong. (Coleman has a problem with stating things as fact that are simply not.) The reality is that people who take his advice could end up facing a lost licence, fines and an impounded car.
The Times Colonist looks at this in an editorial today.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Campbell's $2 billion doomed bet on keeping his job (with your money)

I thought the budget consultation process hit bottom in 2004.
But Gordon Campbell took things to a new low with his TV announcement of an arbitrary 15 per cent tax cut, a desperate, doomed move to hang on to his job at the expense of the Liberal party and the democratic process.
The legislature finance committee - six Liberal MLAs, four New Democrats - travels the province each fall to hear suggestions for the February budget.
It’s a big deal for many people. Business groups propose tax shifts, advocates make the case for spending on schools or health care. People send e-mails or briefs on what they think should be priorities. Many presentations are thoughtful and well-researched.
And the committee writes a report that, theoretically - though rarely practically - shapes the budget.
This year, the government noted that an improving economy offered opportunities. There was an extra $2 billion over the next three years available for initiatives.
"What would you do with additional resources?,” it asked. “Would you fund new programs and services, would you reduce the debt, or would you cut personal income taxes?"
So chambers of commerce and arts groups and non-profits and individuals prepared their submissions. People already working 10 hours a day worked longer to offer their ideas.
Then Campbell went on TV and announced a 15-per-cent tax cut that wiped out that $2 billion, before the committee even started preparing its report.
It was a grand insult. The committee had travelled to 14 communities and done videoconferences with people and organizations in another nine. A lot of effort had gone into hundreds of submissions.
And Campbell gave the finger to them. He decided on a tax cut before he even heard from all those people across the province. The consultation was a sham.
There was no reason for haste. The tax cut doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1. The committee was to report by Nov. 15.
If Campbell had delayed his TV address three weeks, he could have read the committee report and learned what British Columbians believed the budget priorities should be. That would have been polite.
He didn’t, which speaks of a certain contempt for all those people and groups working on their budget submissions.
The New Democrat MLAs withdrew from the committee in protest.
The loyal Liberals defended the premier’s tax cut announcement. You would think, after listening to all those presentations and reading all the submissions, they would have urged the premier to wait a few weeks for the report.
If, as Campbell maintains, all decisions are backed by caucus, surely the Liberal committee members - John Les, Norm Letnick, Don MacRae, John Rustad, Jane Thornthwaite and John van Dongen - would have suggested the tax cut announcement could wait until the public was heard.
But either they weren’t consulted, they were silent or they were ignored. I’m keen to know which.
The previous low point in budget consultation came in 2004, when the government sent out a pre-election campaign flyer/budget consultation document to every household in the province. About 26,000 people responded with budget suggestions. But the flyer went out late, time was tight and the government threw 23,500 of the responses in the garbage and looked at 2,550 - one in 10.
Campbell, seeking political salvation, went farther and ignored every single submission.
Liberal supporters should be the angriest.
If Campbell hadn’t bet $2 billion on a doomed effort to rebuild his personal popularity, the new Liberal leader would have had the chance to announce tax cuts or measures to reduce surgical waits or investments in economic growth.
This isn’t a partisan, or left-right issue, whatever that means.
It’s about bad behaviour, contempt for citizens, docile elected representatives, abuse of power and the reckless spending of $650 million a year.
And it brings shame on the government, and all those who went along with the abuse.
Footnote: First Call, an advocacy group for children and youth, probably speaks for a lot of the organizations - business groups, non-profits, community organizations - who presented to the committee. First Call encourages members to engage in the democratic process, the group noted. But it asked why people should spend time preparing recommendations if the government is going to do whatever it wants anyway. Campbell’s answer should be interesting.

Campbell dragging party down with him

Gordon Campbell's decision to stick around as a lame duck party leader is terrible news for the Liberals.
Campbell took questions from reporters on the day after he announced he would step down.
It was an odd performance. Campbell talked like a popular premier leaving at the top of his game, rather than a liability for his party.
He said he wouldn't step aside for an interim leader. Instead, he'll stay on as leader and premier until a leadership convention is held - within the next six months or so, according to the party's shaky constitution.
That wouldn't be awkward, he said. It's not as if any of the leadership candidates would be questioning the Liberals' past choices on the HST or other issues.
"The new leader, certainly if they're from inside government, will have been part of those decisions," Campbell said.
Bad news for Rich Coleman, Kevin Falcon or anyone else in the current government looking to run for leader on the promise of a new direction.
Even if outside candidates came forward, Campbell said, they surely would accept his priorities.
"They believe in strengthening the private sector economy," he said. "They'll believe in leaving more money in people's pockets. That's what the party has always stood for, and frankly, it's a continuation of that."
Leadership campaigns can be a chance for unpopular parties - like the Liberals - to make a fresh start. They can distance themselves from an unpopular leader - like Campbell - and offer a new vision and style.
Unless the old leader sabotages that opportunity by insisting that it will be business as usual no matter who emerges as Liberal leader.
So Campbell will be peering over the shoulders of leadership candidates, frowning at challenges to the status quo or any concerns about the party's past efforts.
Meanwhile, the Liberal party has apparently been caught off guard by the first leadership contest in 17 years.
The Liberal constitution sets out a leadership vote process. Anyone who joins the party at least seven weeks before the leadership contest gets a vote. Low-polling candidates are dropped until someone gets majority support. And the constitution seems to contemplate a series of mail ballots - kind of a slow motion leadership process.
The Liberals are now considering new rules, according to Sean Holman at
The one-member, one-vote model has appeal. But it also encourages the mass sign-up of instant party members by candidates - religious and ethnic communities are often targeted - and places candidates outside the Lower Mainland at a huge disadvantage.
Holman reports some Liberals are advocating a leadership selection process like the Ontario Conservatives used last year. Each riding had 100 votes; those were allocated based on the party members' choice in a constituency ballot.
That makes it worthwhile to sign up new members, but doesn't let the leadership choice rest on instant Liberals gathered in bulk. (Though it does give the same weight to a riding with 40 members and no hope of electing a Liberal MLA as it does to a powerhouse of party support.)
Meanwhile, the leadership race has begun. Rich Coleman has promised to look at the new drinking-driving laws to see if they're too effective in keeping drivers who have had a glass or two of wine off the roads. George Abbott says he'd step down from cabinet if he runs, to avoid conflict. Coleman says he won't. Kevin Falcon says he hopes Carole Taylor runs. And that's just the early jockeying.
Campbell's decision to hang around, the ghost of Olympics past, does the Liberal party no favours.
And a slow-motion leadership campaign would do the province no favours. Business and consumers hate uncertainty; a long campaign - along with the wait for the HST referendum - create months of political and economic uncertainty.
Footnote: Meanwhile, some New Democrats continue to grumble about Carole James. That seems bizarre - the NDP has a two-to-one lead in the polls and a good chance of forming government no matter who the Liberals select. Plunging the party into a potentially divisive leadership fight makes little sense.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The leadership race begins...

B.C.'s solicitor-general mulls changes to tough drinking and driving laws

VICTORIA - Solicitor-general Rich Coleman said Monday his government is planning to review B.C.'s tough new drinking and driving laws, suggesting any changes could be introduced as early as this coming spring.

"This [the drinking and driving law] has certainly got some issues with it and quite frankly we're going to look at those," Coleman, who has been solicitor-general for just two weeks, said Monday.

Interesting that Coleman says he believes he'll stay in cabinet if he enters the Liberal leadership race, while George Abbott says he won't.