November 14 update: Mayor Watts declines to run for the Liberal Party leadership. As a commenter here stated, she puts her family first at this stage of life and also says her job as Mayor in Surrey is unfinished. Good reasons both.
In the second half of 2010, Liberal party members learned that Gordon Campbell would soon be man overboard. Despite diligent bailing by friendly mainstream media, the Premier’s political boat floundered. Citizens were reading alternative media in ever growing numbers and, by October, even the Vancouver Sun admitted that Campbell’s support had hit “rock bottom.” By then, the back room masters of the BC Liberals had concluded a leadership change was necessary.
The Liberal Party is polling above Campbell but well behind the opposition NDP. Because reputations of once-potential leaders such as Mike de Jong, Colin Hansen and Kevin Falcon were dirtied through association with the Campbell government, a shiny new outsider is the only considered alternative. Campbell, having participated in the coup against previous Liberal Leader Gordon Wilson, knew the tricks that could be employed against him if he tried to hang on. Campbell knew his vulnerability and after abject failure of his November 3 TV speech, the Premier, out of options, agreed to resign.
However, he and the back room influencers from big business aim to control the agenda for as long as possible. There are files to be shredded, small and large patronage to be awarded and longterm commitments worth billions to be finalized. The gravy train needs a smooth road to continue chugging down the line. It cannot be rocked by the rough ride of uncertain leadership.
I’m not pals with Dianne Watts nor any of the Liberal dance-masters. In fact, I’m as outside that loop as one can be. Of course, knowing little about Ms. Watts does not stop me from commenting on the possible next Premier of British Columbia. After all, pundits never lack opinions. We’re profilers but, if needed, we read tea leaves.
First elected Mayor of Surrey in 2005, Watts swept back three years later, with six times the votes of her closest competitor and she demonstrated powerful coattails for her Surrey First slate. Before October, she claimed no ambition to lead the BC Liberal Party.
By early November, disinterest had turned to uncertainty. “I think it’s really premature to have any discussion for anybody about leadership.” Asked to confirm her previous claim that she would not run for Liberal leader, Watts declined. “I’m not going to say anything further on that.”
By November 10, Mayor Watts said that she would be weighing her options over the next few days:
“Any time an opportunity is presented, it’s important to weigh all the options. It’s about taking a step back and evaluating the landscape, evaluating the impact that it has on your life and moving on from there.”
November 15, Mayor Watts appeared on CKNW, the BC Liberal host broadcaster. She will discuss leadership but may not be ready yet to announce her candidacy. Negotiations with kingmakers (queenmakers?) must be completed.
Watts has been doing a walkback, preparing for a pivot point where the announcement can be made that, indeed, she is a candidate. I conclude the decision is made and the campaign has begun. As part of its continuing effort to promote the Liberal Party, the folks of the Black Tower, Radio Free Corus, know what they want. Listeners tuning in for the noon news Friday got frequent reminders and voice clips about the Liberal Party and the Mayor of Surrey:
- 11:58:30 am – Promo for Monday interview on CKNW with Dianne Watts (“. . . the potential saving grace for the BC Liberal Party!”) about her political future. . .
- 12:01:13 pm – News report about a Liberal Party “townhall” meeting with three Liberal MPs and Richmond Secondary students.
- 12:02:20 pm – News report on the Liberal Party establishing a separate fund raising arm and hiring professional fundraisers to pitch potential supporters according to “issue affiliation.” (See, they do read your letters.)
- 12:03:47 pm – News report reminding us that “Dianne Watts is keeping a close eye on a high profile criminal trial…“ with voice clip about sentencing of an impaired driver.
- 12:04:14 pm – News report that begins, “Meanwhile the Surrey Mayor [Diane Watts] says she is running out of patience with the owner of a big piece of property near 64th Avenue. . .”
- 12:15:07 pm – News reader Gord MacDonald introduces Christy Clark and asks her to explain why the Liberals are considering changing from the one member – one vote system for election of a new leader. This leads to Christy explaining that the provincial party wants to ensure it is not dominated by urban populations of the lower mainland. She tells us that one vote is not equal to another but her show would have a number of guest discuss the dilemma.
- 12:30:15 pm – Christy Clark says the headline, “Liberals report it could cost $5 billion dollars to cancel the HST, we’ll find out the background after the news . . .”
- 12:30:28 pm – News report leads with “ ‘Clean-it-up or get ready to pay-up,’ says Surrey Mayor Diane Watts about a piece of property near 64th Avenue. . . “
- 12:32:43 pm – Speaking at a town-hall meeting in Richmond, [Liberal leader] Michael Ignatieff says blah, blah, blah . . .
- 12:36:17 pm – Christy Clark says, “Five billion dollars is the price tag that bureaucrats are putting on getting rid of the HST . . .” Christy also remembered “This report from inside the Finance Ministry came out through Freedom of Information. It wasn’t something the Government leaked intentionally to the public. It’s full of scary scenarios.”
- 12:49:50 pm – Clark says, “When I look at this document, having been in government. . . , I actually don’t see a political document.” (Except that she didn’t see this document because the G&M quoted from it but didn’t publish the paper.)
- Guest David Schreck talked about how 40% of BC people that file returns do not now pay provincial income tax so receive no benefit from the 2011 tax cut announced November 3. By contrast, the top 20% of earners each gain the full individual $620 per year tax cut, in total half of the overall reduction. Christy says the poor are doing well in this province under the Liberal Government because “You can’t do better than payin’ no taxes.” (Perhaps another benefit of the ten year freeze on minimum wages.)
I wonder if this hour of broadcasting from the Black Tower measures up to the canons of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. Part reads:
[Members] recognize the responsibility of broadcast journalists to promote and to protect the freedom to report independently about matters of public interest and to present a wide range of expressions, opinions and ideas.
Is a broadcaster who largely works as a mouthpiece of the ruling political party paying respect to the required standards? Is it time to start holding stations to account by using the complaint facilities of the CBSC?