A Two Ring Political Circus

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.

NDP Candidate?

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.

Liberal Candidate?

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.”

The Mysterious Mr. X

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell resigned on Wednesday, and, from the looks of the latest numbers, not a minute too soon!  There are going to be the usual accolades and incriminations, farewells and good riddances but one guy in B.C. is so mad about all this he could tear his hair out.  We’ll call him MR. X.  Mr. X has an ambition in life.  He wants to be a Superhero — and Premier of BC – but, mostly a superhero.  He’s already got a costume: rolled sleeves, loose tie, bike helmet.  He’s already got a secret identity: caring, sharing, sensitive, millennial man.  He might have a secret lair, too, but I’m not sure.  Anyway, Mr X’s problem on his quest for superhero-dom is he’s been beset by villains.  It is almost as if Mr. X has been the butt of a series of cruel jokes.  At every turn, he’s been thwarted by nefarious schemes, perpetrated by an Evil Mastermind.  That mastermind is Gordon Campbell.

This is the story as we know it.  In 2005, Mr. X was elected to the provincial legislature.  Swept in on a repudiation of Liberal policies, Mr. X knew it was only a matter of time before BC voters turned on the Liberals and kicked them out.  He was quite content to be the rising star in the NDP caucus and bide his time until the powers that be threw Carole James under the bus.  Then he would swoop in and save the day.  Unfortunately, a couple of years into it, Carole James was still doing a reasonable job and had him tied up in actual work — far away from the spotlight.  Meanwhile, the evil Gordon Campbell’s approval ratings were not dropping the way they should and it looked like this wait-and-see crap was going to take a lot longer than anybody figured.  Besides, boring work on dreary committees with “backbenchers” and “hacks” was hardly the work of a superhero.  Nor did it generate that many media sound bytes.

But all was not lost.  In that same country, across the water in Gotham City, the ruling NPA party were having a meltdown.  There were so many knives out that you’d have thought The Amazing Ginsu was having a convention.  It was apparent to anyone with a political eye that, once the bleeding stopped Harold the Talking Penguin could beat these guys.  Plus, in two years, the greatest show on earth was coming to town with a 5 ring media circus that would dwarf anything a lowly member of the provincial opposition could ever hope to get his mitts on.  So, faster than you can say “Holy City Hall!” Mr. X stuffed his backpack, resigned his seat and cross the water.  He was elected in a foregone conclusion and settled down to reap the media rewards, while carefully steering clear of the Transit police.  Things were looking good — until disaster struck.

In 2010, the Olympic media machine descended on Gotham City like locusts over a harvest.  There were so many cameras in town it looked like Canon threw up.  But who seemed to be in front of every one of them?  The evil Gordon Campbell!  Campbell had a great time at the Olympics — waving the flag, talking to the media, dancing, singing, occupying centre stage.  Johnny-come-lately dignitaries were pushed into the background while the big boys strutted their stuff.  There were a few crumbs for Mr. X but nothing near what a Superhero deserved.

However, time was on Mr. X’s side.  The scenario was easy.  It was back to Plan A.  BC voters were beginning to turn against the Liberals.  Carole James was going to get close but still lose one more election.  The bus was waiting, and Mr. X was ironing his cape.  He would replace Carole James and face a diminished Liberal government ripe for the picking.  Superhero status was within his grasp, but who should show up on the horizon?  The evil Gordon Campbell!  In a wicked move, he introduced the HST, and suddenly, it was no longer wait and see.  Liberal numbers plummeted.  Bill Vander Zalm was getting all the press coverage.  The Liberals could lose the next election and Carole James stepped back from the brink.  Mr. X wasn’t going to save anything except the price of a BC Ferry ride.  Things were bad, but then they got even worse.

On Wednesday morning, November 3rd, the evil Gordon Campbell struck again and resigned – the last cold-blooded trick in the evil genius’s deck.  Now the way is open for a new Liberal leadership with a new lease on life.  Carole James isn’t going anywhere and Mr. X is stuck in Gotham City — cleaning out storm drains and dreaming of glory.

So, is this the end of Mr. X?  Only time will tell but, as we all know, without supervillains, superheroes wither and die.  We can only hope that fate has more in store for the mysterious Mr. X and that he doesn’t squander his powers shuffling the homeless between temporary shelters and making the world save for bike lanes.