17 February 2011

BC Liberal Leadership: (Final) Order of preference

The three top issues guiding my decision remain as they have been throughout:

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 I favour the HST, a carbon tax with teeth and the proposed-then-rescinded 15 percent reduction in income tax for the middle-class.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.

Given the above, here's how I would rank my choices on the BC Liberal Party's preferential ballot were the selection for leader held today.

  1. George Abbott. I've watched Abbott over the course of this leadership race and been impressed by his consultative approach, his quick start in proposing clear, concise policy and his resolve to stick by proposals which fellow politicians may not like - e.g., an investigation into why the government is footing the bill for the Basi-Virk $6M settlement and the insertion in the HST referendum of a question on the carbon tax.

    Abbott is determined to consult the people regarding the carbon tax. At first, this concerned me because it put into conflict two of my voting decision criteria: democratic reform and environmental stewardship. However, not only is reform my greater concern but I also trust the people to evaluate their options carefully. Whatever my fellow British Columbians decide, I'll accept.

    For awhile, I'd worried that Abbott might take consultation and consensus-building too far, at the expense of making decisions. He has proven that concern to be unfounded.

    Abbott has the support of 19 MLAs, one of whom was a fellow candidate in this race - Dr. Moira Stilwell. He also has the support of former leadership candidate Ed Mayne. For these and other reasons, I think Abbott to be the best candidate for today's BC Liberal Party.

  2. Mike de Jong. Like Abbott, de Jong appears genuine in terms of a desire to reach out not just to fellow Liberal members but to the general public. He is listening to the ideas presented to him at his Open Mike sessions. Among the ideas I like: lowering the voting age to 16, a call for an online vote of the HST referendum, support for the carbon tax. De Jong has also publicly acknowledged (CFAX, Jan 20) the important work of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform and his discussion regarding lowering the voting age and increasing citizen participation again reinforces his desire for greater public input and engagement. He's not backing off on the voting age proposal, which had been one of my concerns. (ETA: See this interesting analysis of the options by SFU's Doug McArthur, who supports Mike de Jong.)

    I've also placed de Jong in second place for another reason. Christy Clark will likely receive high first-place numbers; if she also receives high second-place numbers, then she will likely be the winner and next Premier. I want Abbott to win; ergo, I place Clark lower than second.

  3. 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.

    For example, on January 18th, the Vancouver Sun held an online chat session with Falcon. He gave a terrible, defensive nanny-state answer to my municipalities question. This was a case other non-answers to questions put to him by other participants. [ETA Jan 19: Falcon has considerably improved over this performance and now makes concerted efforts to answer direct questions with direct answers. I admire both traits - learning from past experience and being direct with people.]

    Like Abbott, Falcon has considerable support from the current Liberal caucus - at last count, 18 19 MLAs. If this were the only consideration, then it could be argued I should be placing him higher. However, ten 11 of those MLAs are cabinet ministers. This raises the question as to how much change, if any, we would see under a Falcon government. The people of British Columbia sent strong signals they want change. To choose Falcon over other choices is tantamount to ignoring those signals and thumbing noses at the people sending them. In Abbott's case, the MLA support represents a broader range of representation regionally, geographically and by voter representation.

  4. Christy Clark. I'd initially been concerned about the cloud over Clark regarding the BC Rail issue; not regarding her guilt or innocence (unlike some, I'd not been impressed by Basi's self-aggrandizing memos), but her refusal to consider a public inquiry regarding the matter. The release of evidence yesterday cleared all elected officials, including Clark, from any wrongdoing. That cloud is now gone.

    There are aspects to Clark that I like - her clear desire to listen to the people, her acknowledgement of the tremendous importance the nonprofit sector plays in the health and welfare of people in their communities and her recognition of urgent issues regarding municipalities. Other aspects I find troublesome: her inconsistencies, flip flops (HST) and a disingenuous response regarding what she'd initially proposed about the HST.

    A further consideration must be Clark's lack of support from current members of the Liberal caucus. This can be seen either as a positive or a negative; positive, in that it separates Clark from the current administration. But it doesn't separate her from a Campbell government, given her previous roles as a Campbell cabinet minister and Deputy Premier. Therefore, Clark can claim only degrees of separation. The negative to Clark's lack of caucus support signals that these members may know something that I don't, a consideration which I must take seriously.

I am ambivalent about the 3rd- and 4th-place positions and may switch them when it comes time to vote. [And I've already switched them.] However, unless something BIG happens over the next ten days, positions 1 and 2 are locked.

ETA Feb 22: Due to the likelihood Mike de Jong will drop off the ballot after the first round, and given other considerations, when election day arrives I may switch positions 2 and 3. Kevin Falcon supporters, you know what to do. Convince me!

Mike de Jong supporters, give me reasons, beyond those I've outlined, why I should keep your guy in second position.

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