It's early days yet in the BC Liberal leadership race, but it appears there will be only the five contenders who have already declared - although a BC Liberal in good standing could run for leader as late as 13 days before the leadership vote. [See ETAs Dec 21 2:40 p.m., Jan 4 10:15 a.m.]
When evaluating the possibility of a new government, these issues rank as the top three for me:
Democratic reform. Outreach, meaningful engagement with the public, resumption of powers to MLAs, openness and transparency, electoral reform, support for greater independence and return of powers to local governments.
Taxation policy. Smartly applied carrot-and-stick consumption taxes designed to guide consumer behaviour. A gradual reduction of earnings taxes, which punish enterprising activity, behaviour that should be encouraged. I favour the HST, the carbon tax and the proposed-then-rescinded 15 percent reduction in income tax for the middle-class.
Climate change. Greening the economy, which must work in sync with the taxation policy. Greening the economy must include an effective carbon tax and cap 'n trade.
Of the five contenders for the BC Liberal leadership race, this is my current1 order of preference given the dominant themes stated above:
- George Abbott. Said to be the least polarizing of the candidates for Liberals, Abbott is aligned with the old guard. He and Kevin Falcon have been playing catch-up in terms of who can get the most endorsements from Liberal MLAs and members of the current Liberal cabinet. Last I checked they were tied at 12 each. What I like about Abbott: his ability to bring opposing sides together, his support for the carbon tax, the HST and lowering the voting age to 16. Against: his Falcon-like response to cap 'n trade: best to wait for more partners. [See ETAs Dec 18 5:00 p.m., Jan 4 10:15 a.m.]
- Mike de Jong. de Jong appears to be the most real in terms of outreach, in trying to engage not just Liberals but the general public. He truly appears to be listening to the ideas presented to him at his Open Mike sessions. Among those I like: lowering the voting age to 16, a call for an online vote of the HST referendum, support for the carbon tax. I've yet to get an answer from de Jong about cap 'n trade and I'm disappointed in his early lack of vocal support for and pessimistic messaging re the HST. In my view, a defeat of the HST in the referendum is not a given. Opinion appears to be changing, more British Columbians are sitting on the fence hoping for more information about the tax, and the anti-HST commitment has lowered in numbers. [See ETA Jan 4 10:15 a.m.]
- Kevin Falcon. Falcon suggested lowering the HST first to 11 percent then to ten percent. So far there has been no proposal for making up the shortfall. Falcon also is backtracking on the carbon tax and cap 'n trade in tune with demands from big industry, including oil and mining. [See ETAs: Dec 18 5:00 p.m., Dec 21 11:00 a.m.]
- Christy Clark. A huge demerit for Clark is the secrecy regarding her possible role in the sale of BC Rail, otherwise I might have ranked her #1 or #2. A huge plus for Clark: She was a late but strong vocal proponent of BC-STV, the new, elegant electoral system that was defeated by referendum in 2009. Other points in Clark's favour: support for the HST, the carbon tax and lowering the voting age. Like Stilwell and de Jong, Clark has avoided answering the cap 'n trade question. [See ETAs: Dec 18 4:00 p.m., Dec 21 11:00 a.m.]
- Dr. Moira Stilwell. Stilwell has been the most direct in answering my questions, for which I give her mucho kudos. She supports the HST and the carbon tax. Her answers so far waffle or are lacking regarding cap 'n trade and lowering the voting age. [See ETAs Dec 18 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Dec 21 11:00 a.m.]
- ETA Jan 4 10:15 a.m. - Ed Mayne. New entrant to the race. Not enough information yet to assess him as Liberal leader or Premier. One thing I like is his support for the HST referendum to remain in September. British Columbians could need time to assess the impact of removing the HST and to make an informed decision.
Supporters of the lower-ranked candidates will work to poke holes in this ranking. That's fine; fire away on Twitter.
To some candidates, my opinion won't matter. I am a non-partisan and hence have no vote in electing the leader of the BC Liberal Party and this province's next Premier.
To other candidates, the smart ones, my opinion and that of other members of the voting public, will matter.
In the end, it is not just about winning the leadership of a given political party. It is about winning over the majority of British Columbians.
1By "current" I mean as of 11:00 a.m. December 18 2010. That is, "subject to change without notice." I'll be adding ETAs as required to explain inevitable shifting of ranks.
ETA Dec 18 12:05 p.m.: Latest response from Stilwell: on #capntrade It's a great idea, but we need to find more partners for it to actually work well. My reply: Unless 1 govt starts cap 'n trade, wht's incentive 4 others? Who takes lead in Cda? Relevant: http://bit.ly/h2Ie4g. Subsequent Twitter conversation. Still waiting for response on voting age. In the meantime, Stilwell is still ranked #2.
ETA Dec 18 4:00 p.m.: First change! The rankings of #2 and #3 have switched.
Christy Clark came out early in favour of Mike de Jong's proposal to change the voting age to 16, one of the important facets in a democratic reform package. I've heard back from Stilwell regarding both cap 'n trade and the voting age. Regarding the latter, Stilwell wants to hear from the public; which plays right into the status quo and the vested interests that will fight to keep the electoral system (not to mention party discipline) as is.
Stilwell's answer on voting age is as much a waffle as any other. If you can be elected leader of your party by votes from 14-year-olds (yes, the BC Liberal Party Constitution permits this), then you're a hypocrite not to defend a policy position that would allow 16-year-olds to vote in provincial elections.
ETA Dec 18 5:00 p.m.: My foggy brain recalls a tweet from someone reporting on George Abbott's telephone town hall yesterday. Apparently, he was asked if he supported Mike de Jong's proposal to lower the voting age to 16. He said Yes. Trying to find that tweet or get other confirmation. [Dec 21: Got it - see last paragraph]
Spotted a rumour on Twitter that Falcon also supports lowering the voting age. Trying to get confirmation on that also. [Dec 21: Got it]
ETA Dec 21 10:00 a.m.: Yesterday, Falcon introduced a plan for BC's northern regions. Kudos not so much for the plan - that's up to northerners to approve -, but for its specificity. As far as I've been able to track, no other candidate has presented a (detailed) plan for northern BC. Then today, the Falcon team announced this. Gotta admit that's pretty cool and could be part of coming changes to engage the public in political decisions.
Clark has been and continues to suggest she'd call a snap election. From the perspective of the electorate, it's a bad idea and reeks of political opportunism. Voters need time to assess the new Premier and his/her style of governance. We'd also benefit from observing the NDP Official Opposition under its new leader. The two years until the next scheduled election would be ideal. Clark also so far has come out with no policy. In this video, she gives a general discussion regarding fiscal responsibility; says her government would strike up an "economic advisory panel" and only then decide on a taxation policy. Voters are to elect a Clark-led Liberal government on this basis? That she'll strike up an advisory council on monetary issues? Not good enough.
Given i) the latest Falcon announcements and the additions to the ETA of Dec 18 5:00 p.m. regarding Falcon, and ii) the issues with the Clark campaign, rankings have changed. Clark has fallen from 2nd to 4th and Stilwell from 4th to 5th. Abbott and Falcon have moved up, from 3rd to 2nd and from 5th to 3rd place, respectively.
ETA Dec 21 2:40 p.m.: Interesting development yesterday re entrants to race. Parksville mayor "seriously considering" entering and filed letter of intent to party last Thursday.
ETA Jan 4 10:15 a.m.: Just finished watching George Abbott's announcement. "It's as much about the how as the what." Was impressed with Abbott's passion (!) about open government and greater involvement by, and better representation of British Columbians. Among the policies Abbott proposes is including a vote on the carbon tax along with the HST referendum. I think that's fair, given how the scheduled hikes in the tax will impact British Columbians differently. I favour the carbon tax and its continuation as previously set. I also favour more involvement by the people in the determination of such policy. Was impressed sufficiently and have been less impressed by Mike de Jong lately, that I've moved Abbott to the number #1 spot.
Am waiting for an email response to this question, which I asked via Twitter: Munis must chg laws, allow not public hsg but low-cost hsg dev. How wld u persuade? http://bit.ly/gkBmU.
Abbott team has responded quickly to my reminder. I grant that today is a busy day and understand the delay, appreciate response.
Ed Mayne, now former mayor of Parksville, has entered the race. See list above.
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