28 January 2011

BC Liberal Leadership Candidate George Abbott

At one time, I worried that BC Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott's conciliatory positioning might impede a government lead by him from getting much done. The concern centred around a seeming lack of both opportunities for decision- and policy-making, and of timelines with respect to such policy creation and policy outcomes.

I've begun to change my mind.

First was Abbott's early proposal to add a question to the HST referendum about the continuation of carbon tax hikes following the hikes already scheduled. Abbott says he will abide by the people's decision on both the HST and carbon tax.

The latter puts me in conflict with two of the three priority issues that guide my voting preference, which I've listed elsewhere and repeat here:

Democratic reform.
  • Support for greater independence and return of powers to local governments.
       We work, play, live and die in communities. Local elected officials are the closest to the people and best positioned to identify their communities' unique strengths and needs, and to provide the best solutions. Therefore, the greatest political power should rest with local, not the provincial or federal, governments.
  • Outreach and meaningful engagement with the public.
  • Resumption of powers to MLAs.
  • Open government policies.
  • Electoral reform.

Taxation policy. Smartly applied carrot-and-stick consumption taxes designed to guide consumer behaviour and a gradual reduction of earnings taxes. I favour the HST, a carbon tax with teeth and the proposed-then-rescinded 15 percent reduction in income tax for the middle-class.

Environmental Stewardship. Greening the economy. This is crucial to supporting our environment and must work in sync with sound taxation policy. Greening the economy must include an effective carbon tax and cap 'n trade.

Regarding Abbott's carbon tax referendum question, I worry about its result, that British Columbians will turn down future hikes. But I worry more about lack of democratic process and meaningful consultation with the public. Since the latter is dominant for me, I support Abbott's carbon tax referendum proposal.

In like theme, I support Abbott's proposal to have the people - through a meaningful process of dialogue among non-profits, aboriginal communities, business, the immigrant services sector and the BC Government - create a child poverty policy with legislated reduction targets five years and ten years out.

"The participants themselves would be tasked to define the problem and design a set of solutions together through ongoing dialogue, and also submit to taking action as partners to support the solution in recognition that no single group alone can solve the problem," says Abbott's news release.

With this and other concrete proposals that combine meaningful public consultation with policy creation, George Abbott comes across as a solid candidate for the BC Liberal leadership. It doesn't hurt that

  • he has 16 MLAs who support his candidacy;
  • he stands second in public opinion only to Christy Clark - who has the support of one MLA;
  • another frontrunner, Kevin Falcon, has dropped like a stone in those same public opinion polls (could it be all those business endorsements?); and
  • the BC NDP prefers anyone but Abbott as leader of the BC Liberals.

More and more George Abbott looks like the candidate to beat.

ETA Jan 30: Dirty tricks may beat Abbott's otherwise excellent odds. Despite all leadership candidates declaring support for the weighted vote - each riding's constituency association would get 100 points -, word is that the Christy Clark, Mike de Jong and Kevin Falcon campaigns have all been working to ensure enough delegates to vote in their chosen one's favour; i.e., against the measure. And all three campaigns have been signing up 1000s of new memberships in four key ridings in the lower mainland. Those four ridings could alone determine who becomes leader of the BC Liberals; in effect, making the BC Liberal Party even more a regional, not a provincial, party.

Recommend this post