A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Politics is a serious business. When it’s done right, it can be beautiful to behold. Unfortunately, mostly, it isn’t, and when it isn’t, it’s really, really boring. That’s why it’s always magical when the politicians in British Columbia come out to play. These folks could teach Barnum and Bailey a few tricks, and, for the most part, they’re the reason the rest of Canada thinks people in B.C. are all wandering around, stoned.
For the uninitiated, here’s a brief history of politics in Lotus Land. Originally, British Columbia was not so much a province of Canada as a private duchy, ruled by an oligarchy from Kelowna. This regime was briefly overthrown in 1972, by a 60s group called Dave Barrett and the Socialist Horde. But the oligarchy quickly reclaimed power and governed until Billy VanderZalm finally messed it up — for good — in 1991. What followed was a prolonged period of anarchy. In a political free-for-all brawl that lasted 10 years, whole parties were wiped out and resurrected, the Socreds died, the Liberals were born and the NDP died and were born again (There’s a bit of irony there.) Two premiers were, shall we say, “tainted,” and both had to resign. And in one astounding turn of events, Gordon Wilson went from Leader of the Opposition in the Liberal party to Minister of Finance in the NDP government that he was originally opposed to — after stopping briefly to form the Mom and Pop PDA party with Judi Tyabji. All in all, those were heady days. The period ended when Strongman Gordon Campbell hijacked the shiny new Liberal Party and restored order.
During the Campbell era, BC used the American two-party system (with limited success) and a number of smaller political groups gained prominence, including the Green Party. For the last couple of years, British Columbia has had 2 ½ legitimate political parties and about 3 wannabes. There’s the Liberal Party (which isn’t Liberal, and never was) the NDP (who are the natural successors to the two “tainted” premiers) and NDP-X (Extreme) a rebel alliance within the NDP who are one harsh word away from packing their bags full of votes and forming their own party. In the midst of this, Gordon Campbell’s popularity was dropping faster than Lindsay Lohan on a play date over the basic issue of taxation without representation. It looked like the NDP would, once again, form a government.
All this came to a screaming halt on November 3rd, 2010, when Campbell resigned. Within a month, NDP-X shot everybody in the foot when they staged a bloodless insurrection which forced NDP leader Carole James to step down. Without a viable leader in either party, the gates of anarchy came right off their hinges. Suddenly anybody with $15,000 and a lot of chutzpah had a crack at the crown in the Duchy of BC. Let the games begin!
The Liberals were first off the mark, with a number of candidates for leader — including two women: one who didn’t have a hope, and one who’s been looking for an opportunity ever since she quit the government the first time. The NDP, however, were severely hampered when they discovered that, under their gender rules, at least one of the three top jobs in the party had to be filled by a woman! Obviously, they’d just trashcanned the only female they had, so now men were effectively banned from party leadership. Undeterred, a couple of guys announced their candidacy, anyway. However, at this point, nobody wants to change the rules and neither of the two boys (Moe Sihota and Bob Smits) already on the job, seems willing to go under the knife. Therefore, it looks like — eventually — someone else is going to have to get thrown under the bus, like Carole James, to make room for the incoming testosterone.
Meanwhile, the Liberals did change their rules from the traditional one person/one vote system (which has been around in BC since before Pattullo was a bridge) to a winner-take-nothing formula of second and third choices that looks like Bohr’s Theory of the Structure of Matter and is just about as complicated.
Of course, the secret to success in both parties is signing up new members (who vote for the candidate who brought them.) However, that old “Onesy, twosy, would you like to join my party?” method was way too slow for some candidates. In typical BC fashion, they just cranked up the Xerox machine and went wholesale on the application forms, and then showed up at party headquarters with bags of $10 bills to complete the huge number of transactions. Of course, this is just an unsubstantiated rumour. On the other side of the political spectrum, somebody questioned the wisdom of limiting party membership to humans and signed up a cat.
Then, in one of the strangest moves to come out of these leadership races — and perhaps in all political history — both parties decided to run the same guy as leader. Oddly enough, nobody has detected this.
So here we are on the verge of a Liberal Party vote for leader and the NDP will hold their vote in April. Since this time last year, the Premier has resigned, the Leader of the Opposition has resigned, several Ministers have resigned and their opposition critics have resigned. There’s nobody left to run the show in Victoria because every politician west of the Great Divide is jockeying for a position in the New World Order. The government hasn`t even been is session for over 6 months but nobody’s noticed and nobody gives a damn. Honestly, the politicians of British Columbia had better be careful. The circus might be entertaining, but people are beginning to think, “We`re better off when these clowns don’t go to work every day.”