When it comes to insane politics, British Columbia faces no shortage this week. We learned that Premier Gordon Campbell’s approval rating has declined to 9%, an unprecedented single digit that The Province newspaper calls an “astounding beating.” The same Angus Reid opinion poll showed 49% support for Carole James’ New Democratic Party, about double that of the BC Liberals and far above the approval levels that took Barrett, Harcourt and Clark to election victories.
With those poll numbers, we can be sure it’s time for a leadership race because no politician survives when voters indicate unequivocal rejection over an extended time period. The first sign that a leader’s final days have arrived is when putative kingmakers choose sides and start revealing long-standing differences that separate competing interests. We’ve seen much of that in recent days.
None are surprised that one of BC’s two mainstream provincial parties is coming apart. It is never an accident when a group’s apparently disparate elements mount separate attacks in the same time frame. What is strange though is that Carole James is the party leader under siege. Because Liberals can fall no further, the NDP leftists and labor union folks have grown impatient. They smell the prospect of power but worry that James is too much a moderate centrist, interested in the politics of reason instead of idealogical confrontation. Hearts race as people dream about places at the public trough and skip beats over the fear of another lost opportunity.
“Get rid of all those self-serving Liberal toadies and replace them with our guys and gals. Hurry, because we’ve been in the wilderness for ten years and we’re hungry.”
I have never been a member and only voted NDP occasionally so I don’t have a horse in this race. Years ago, I was an active Liberal but outgrew that naivety along with other bad habits. Nevertheless, I believe this province desperately needs to reverse the regressive measures of the Campbell Government. More than anything, we must have an honest accounting of Liberal misdeeds. That will never happen if big business interests are able to substitute one instrument for another in the shape of a new Liberal leader or reborn party of right wing interests.
The next generations will pay dearly for giveaways ($50 billion and rising) to private power producers. BC Rail was the first BC Liberal scandal but not the worse. Gaining knowledge from early mistakes, the purloiners learned to shroud dishonest deals in layers of impenetrable complexity, well shielded from public view. Theft of the railroad had been too straightforward, too obvious to any reasonable person. However, afterward, the high value BCR land banks disappeared from public ownership with barely any notice or public objection. Similarly, the vital future interests of BC Hydro have been gifted from the public to private corporations.
Just as criminals in government were being revealed, impatient rumps of the one legitimate opposition party stage an internal revolt. Insane. However, James is not blameless here. Bob Simpson had been an irritant for some time. He and others deserved discipline but that should have been done in a considered party process, not by edict of a leader bypassing caucus. Now, when James should be putting nails in the political coffin of Gordon Campbell, she is stuck in a skirmish with people who skulked in the backrooms conspiring to undermine the leader who had brought the party to the brink of success.
Carole James sketch courtesy of