06 December 2010

BC's Political Scene: Chaos

For political junkies, the political brouhaha in British Columbia surrounding our (currently) top two parties provides a high ride. Its end may not come before Spring 2013.

First, we have the NDP imploding with dissidents and loyalists fighting over leadership, democratic process and control. The labelling largely thrown by the 'loyalists' at the 'dissidents' is loathsome. The media of course has perpetuated it and so, therefore, has everyone else. Loyalist, dissident: it's all about perspective, people!

Second, we have the Liberals at the start of a leadership race, with Gordon Campbell having resigned the post he still, ahem, occupies.

Four candidates have officially declared: Former Cabinet Minister Dr. Moira Stilwell; Former Cabinet Minister George Abbott, who claims the support of 11 MLAs; Former Cabinet Minister Kevin Falcon, who also claims the support of 11 MLAs; and former Cabinet Minister Mike de Jung. You may detect a pattern.

Expected to announce her leadership bid this week is also Christy Clark, who once was a Cabinet Minister but resigned for 'family' reasons mid-term through the Liberals' second mandate and has been out of government for six years. Clark has huge name recognition, largely I suspect not because of her role in government but because of her role as a radio show host.

Clark consistently leads strongly over the declared candidates in public opinion polls. However, it isn't the public Clark needs to convince in a Liberal leadership race, but members of the party. Given Clark's comments on her radio show, some members of the current administration, including fellow leadership candidates, could bear a grudge. That said, if the party has learned anything, it will listen to what the public is saying, especially given that listening heads the campaign theme of the four declared candidates.

So now we have the leadership status of both the NDP and Liberals up in the air, not to mention the continued existence as we know it of one of those parties.

In terms of the Liberal race, we have Clark without a seat in the Legislature and thus looking for a safe one to occupy. She may get help on that score from one Gordon Campbell, who spoke yesterday of the awkwardness of current leaders having former leaders hanging around. While Campbell said he would wait to decide on resigning as a MLA, he did put the issue out there. Further, should his seat become empty, it wouldn't be hard to suppose it to be a safe seat for any future Liberal leader. Vancouver-Point Grey constituents are, after all, used to having a Premier as their MLA.

Now consider the Liberal race within the context of the NDP implosion.

If Had Carole James hangs hung on, then given the public damage that has been done to her leadership, together with other public exposures of NDP processes and powers, then even a new leader of the Liberal party with strong ties to the current administration would be likely to win in 2013. In other words, it is was doubtful a James-led NDP could win against the Liberals, regardless of who headed the latter.

Given current polls, if the Liberals were headed by Clark, there would be no doubt of a Liberal win against James. Further, should Clark be the new Liberal leader and she occupied the Vancouver-Point Grey seat vacated by Campbell, it is likely she would call a by-election or a snap election. In either case, it would be for the purpose of obtaining a clear mandate, given Clark had been out of government for six years.

If Carole James resigns and a new leader of the party emerges, however, then the NDP might stand a chance in 2013 if the new Liberal leader has strong ties to the current administration. But again, against Clark, the odds of a NDP success fall, especially if there's a snap election.

In any event, if James were replaced by a new NDP leader, the latter would have to, and be seen to, have done serious restructuring within the party - and quickly - and be charismatic, open and forthright with the people.

ETA: Carole James is to talk to the media at 11:00 a.m. Oh, the suspense! ...CKNW's Penny Daflos reports James is expected to resign.

ETA 11:00am: Carole James has resigned.

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