A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Wow! Just when you think the world is going to be ruled by The Mundanes forever, fate raises its lovely hand and gives you a slap.
On Wednesday morning, Christy Clark is going to declare she’s a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of BC. Actually, everybody above ground already knows she’s going to run, but she has to make the announcement at an event; it’s in the Official Political Candidate’s Handbook somewhere. Quite frankly, it’s refreshing to see somebody playing by the rules around here. Ms. Clark will turn a forgone Kevin Falcon conclusion into an interesting, two-person race. Some pundits think she’s already the de facto Premier; some don’t.
Either way, she’s following a grand political tradition. In British Columbia, when things get buggered up beyond all belief — like when the lunatics decide that the HST is good for the asylum — the men usually make themselves scarce. They find a dedicated woman and put her front and centre. She can either clean up the mess or get torn apart by the snarling mob — they don’t really care which. Then, in due time, when things settle down, the men show up again and start yipping about “a new direction” or “change” or some other such nonsense. They pat the woman on the back and push her out the door, if she’s still around. If she isn’t, they just never mention her name.
This isn’t all hyperbole, by the way. In 1991, Social Credit Premier Bill Vander Zalm was up to his smile in conflict of interest over the sale of Fantasy Gardens. He resigned his office in April, and Rita Johnson became Socred leader and Premier at the party convention in July. It’s absolutely impossible to build a political organization in just six months. So, by the time the provincial election in October came around, the Socred brand was so damaged that Rita didn’t have a prayer. Social Credit was forever discredited, and it faded away. However, most of the people involved just moved one space over and became Liberals — with that “new direction” everybody’s always talking about. Ms. Johnson’s name was never spoken again.
If you’re too young to remember 1991, maybe 1999 rings a bell. In March of that year, NDP Premier Glen Clark’s house was searched by the RCMP and he was accused of – you guess it – conflict of interest. He resigned in August. In the 2001 provincial election, the NDP were beaten so badly they needed a defibrillator. They didn’t have enough MLAs left to get up a good game of canasta. In fact, there were only two: Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan. Oddly enough, no men were elected. Then in 2003, when it came time for the heart transplant, the NDP selected Carole James as the donor, and charged her with cleaning up the mess. Ujjal Dosanjh went on to federal politics(as a Liberal), Glen Clark went to work for the uber-capitalist Jimmy Pattison (clearly a “new direction”) and I have no idea what happened to Moe Sihota (but I’m sure he’ll turn up.) Carole had a lot more time than Rita but she worked just as hard. In the next provincial election, in 2005, she and the NDP turned 2 seats into 33. Overnight, Leader of the Opposition became a trophy worth having again and then, when Gordon Campbell hit the road over the HST debacle, it got downright desirable.
If this all sounds like a gender-based conspiracy, it’s not. If you need an explanation, suffice it to say that women tend to believe in the cause, come hell or high water, whereas men see the writing on the wall and prefer to fight another day — which brings us to the current NDP fiasco.
Carole James wasn’t booted out by a conspiracy. She simply ran afoul of that same vocal minority that inhabits every organization: the ones who get what they want just by being a pain in the ass. For example, Jenny Kwan doesn’t want to be leader. In fact, my guess is she isn’t even interested in provincial politics anymore. She’s already looking down the road at Libby Davies’ accrued pension — in Ottawa. Unfortunately, the Baker’s Dozen saw Ms. James as a typical short-term female leader, who just wasn’t tough enough to actually govern. They took it upon themselves to ignore the majority (in the name of that same old “new direction” again) and they wouldn’t play unless they got their way. In her resignation speech, Carole James said, “I know there will be individuals who see this as a win for the bullies,” — and she’s right. Gender lines are drawn — even in the NDP.
So where does that leave Christy Clark? If she does get to be Liberal leader — and I’m thinking that she will — first of all, she’s got a huge mess to clean up. The Liberal Party of BC is about as well-liked as H1N1, right now. She’s going to have to deal with the HST and the minimum wage. She’s going to have to build voter confidence and acceptance that hers truly is a different Liberal government; meanwhile, constantly looking over her shoulder to see who’s got the knives out in her own party. Finally, if she does all that, then she gets to face the NDP who have just demonstrated, beyond any doubt, their ruthlessness. I was never a fan of Christy Clark, but if she can do all that, survive, and deal with the bullies over at the NDP, she’s got my vote.