19 January 2011

BC Liberal Leadership: Order of preference 2

[UPDATED Jan 20, 10:00 a.m.]

My three top issues that will guide my decision remain as before:

Democratic reform. Support for greater independence and return of powers to local governments. This is the key issue for me. 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 provincial, not federal - governments.

Further democratic reforms I'd like to see: outreach and meaningful engagement with the public, resumption of powers to MLAs, open government, 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 I favour the HST, a carbon tax with teeth and the proposed-then-rescinded 15 percent reduction in income tax for the middle-class.

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.

Given the dominant themes stated above, of the realistic contenders for the BC Liberal leadership race the following is my current order of preference. This new list acknowledges that Christy Clark, George Abbott and Kevin Falcon are thought by Liberals to be the frontrunners; and that Mike de Jong, while currently considered by as being in fourth place could be, given the positive reception he has been getting, a challenger on the second ballot. Placing Moira Stilwell or Ed Mayne in any position other than fifth or sixth is an exercise in futility, so I've simply dropped them off my preference list.

  1. Christy Clark. Over the past couple of weeks, Clark's public messaging and videos have suggested a lack of vision (see this, for example: nice music, nice ambience, no policy statement). As I write this, the first all candidates meeting has just completed. Clark continued her "we must listen to the people" mantra almost ad nauseum. My advice to the candidate: Be careful not to portray yourself in your public appearances as merely interested in consultation; that can suggest that as Premier you could be indecisive.

    At the same event Clark fortunately did announce a major policy proposal, the creation of an Office of the Municipal Auditor General.
    Over the last several years, as the economy has shifted, municipalities have struggled to determine how to fund services and deal with the shifting of responsibilities from senior levels of governments. This new office would look at the competition between commercial, industrial and residential taxation, the role local government is playing and find ways to make sure the taxpayer is being well-served.... [T]his new office would be able to select its own areas for review, react to requests from municipalities and look at suggestions from the public.
    Couple this with Clark's call for a Community Gaming Grants review and an initial 12.5 percent increase to the program, of the major contenders Clark stands first in terms of policy acknowledgements of the importance of communities and local governments. Therefore, I currently place her first in this list.

  2. 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.

    ETA Jan 20 10:00 a.m.: Just now on CFAX, I liked de Jong's nod to the Citizens' Assembly and his discussion regarding lowering the voting age and increasing citizen participation generally. He's not backing off on the voting age proposal, which had been a concern of mine. Still haven't heard de Jong say anything about municipalities.

  3. George Abbott. As the campaign has proceeded, I've been less enchanted with Abbott. It's nothing I can put my finger on; more that his conciliatory positioning makes me question whether much would get done under his leadership. Abbott isn't short on policy, for which I give him credit, but can he make the hard decisions when necessary?

  4. Kevin Falcon. Falcon suggested lowering the HST first to 11 percent then to ten percent. Where does he plan to make up the shortfall? Falcon also has signalled a backtracking on the carbon tax.

    In general, some of Falcon's responses or statements expose a defensiveness which is unattractive in a political leader. He tends also to listen through a particular lens to questions posed to him; not just in terms of which questions he chooses to answer but in his responses. In many cases, he is not responding to the question at all, but giving a response in reference to an issue only remotely related to it.

    ETA Jan 18, 12:30p: For example, just now in the Vancouver Sun online chat session, Falcon gave a terrible, defensive nanny-state answer to my municipalities question. This was a case (of several) of not answering the question put to him:

    What policy, if any, would your government implement in support of increasing the power (areas of responsibility) to, and autonomy of funding for municipalities?

    Regarding funding, 'autonomy' was a key word. Falcon's answer began with a defence a) against claims, which the question didn't make, that the provincial government had continued to download responsibilities to local governments while b) reducing their provincial funding. Provincial funding wasn't part of the question either; autonomy of funding was.

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