I hope it’s not another “new direction”

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.

The Return of Mr. X?

When last we saw the Mysterious Mr. X (as chronicled in these pages) he had just been thwarted by that supervillian, Gordon Campbell.  He was stuck in Gotham City, wasting his incredible powers on “hacks” and the homeless.  It looked like the end of his dream of becoming a superhero – and Premier of British Columbia.  In frustration, he retired to his secret lair (which was undergoing a multi-million-dollar, taxpayer-funded, makeover) and has not been heard from since.  Fate is a funny fellow, though, and when the evil Gordon Campbell resigned, he set in motion a chain of events that may yet propel Mr. X forward into the role of the superhero – a role he so feverishly craves.

This is the story as we know it.  When the evil Gordon Campbell resigned, it sent the Liberal Party scurrying back to the ship of state to find a new leader.  However, since every liberal from Sooke to Spuzzum had been tarnished by the HST, the prospects were thin.  Liberal ministers could hide, but they couldn’t run.  Within days, Dianne Watts and Carole Taylor, two untarnished heiresses, both bowed out of the race.  Suddenly, only Christy Clark and the usual Liberal hacks stood between the NDP and ultimate power in Capital City.  For the first time since the turn of the century, with a little luck, the NDP could actually win an election.  Overwhelmed by dreams of a return to the heady days of Glen Clark “shovelling money off the back of a truck,” the NDP were incontinent with joy.  However, it became increasing apparent, in the NDP caucus, that not everyone was going to get a shovel.  Even with the bounty of British Columbia at their feet, there simply wasn’t enough to go around.  Some members would have to remain shovel-less. Discontent grew.  Questions were asked.  Who would get the shovels?  How would the shovels be distributed?  Why didn’t I get a shovel?  To make matters worse, Chairman Moe had already staked out his claim by getting a 5 figure stipend from the Labour Movement.  Luckily, in keeping with NDP philosophy, the stipend wasn’t lucre paid out of the profits of any capitalist venture but merely a “generous, earmarked gift” from hard-working British Columbians who had involuntarily volunteered their union dues.  Seeing that dividing the spoils was dividing the party, Carole James decided to end the uncertainty once and for all.  In a symbolic gesture, she handed out yellow scarves to all those who were going to get their mitts on the money after the NDP victory.

All hell broke loose.  Fury is a minority scorned, and the Baker’s Dozen minority had been scorned beyond their wildest expectations.  If they weren’t going to get their share, there was nothing for it but open revolution.  The powerful majority were going to have to do as they were told, or the minority would seize power and make their own rules.  It was the classic Bolshevik-Menshevik conundrum, rewritten bold, in upper-middle class type.  An emergency meeting was called and the media was put on high alert.  Then, in a surprise move, the meeting was postponed.  But why?  And by whom?  Obviously, the political toothpaste was already out of the tube, but power is not what you do; it’s what you’re willing to do.  Apparently some members of the NDP weren’t willing to do anything.

Meanwhile back in Gotham City, Mr. X was sipping an $8.00-an-hour latte and watching the media circus unfold.  It made him sad to see all the microphones and cameras wasted on ordinary people when a genuine superhero was trapped in endless meetings over storm drains and bike lanes.  He remembered the smell of the legislature, the sound of The Speaker calling the members to order, question period and the media scrum.  He knew he could fix the problems of the NDP.  He would show the world the stuff that real politicians are made of.  As an honest broker, he would swoop down and find common ground that all members could embrace.  He’d heal the wounds and bring the NDP out of the darkness into the light of a new Golden Age of Progressive Prosperity.  Then, by golly, he’d win that election and drive the capitalists out of Capital City.  He had powerful friends; all he had to do was make a few phone calls.

Authentic superheroes don’t shirk their duty or cancel meetings.  He put on his cape and was about to call for a helicopter when it occurred to him that his powerful friends didn’t really have scarves.  It was one thing to swoop down on Carole James; it was quite another to go mano a mano with Organized Labour.  Fortunately, Mr. X was an astute observer of political thought and he remembered Madonna’s sage advice from Evita;

“All you have to do is sit and wait
Keeping out of everybody’s way
 … You’ll be handed power on a plate
When the ones who matter have their say
And with chaos installed,
You can reluctantly agree to be called”

Mr. X picked up his Smart phone and ordered another latte.

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.