Tag Archives: BC Liberal Party

The Conservative-Liberal Coalition ALREADY Rules Us

British Columbia has been ruled by a Conservative-Liberal coalition for almost all of living memory. So why are we allowing Stephen Harper to get any traction at all with his coalition fear-mongering? His hypocritical opposition is a stunning continuation of his contempt for legitimate democratic structures.

Harper can bluster on all he likes about the coalition bogeyman. Others can invoke his 2004 coalition work and call him a liar or hypocrite. The truth is that Harper is against the coalition because it is the democratic political structure he fears most in our post-majority world.

But why are we still tolerating it, especially in BC? Harper and Ignatieff/Dion have participated in a passive coalition for years. Harper has played chicken with the Liberals by threatening confidence status of various bills/motions, trusting the Liberals to back down because they weren’t prepared for an election.

Other times, the Liberals have actually agreed with Harper policies, but spend their energy opposing them, only to ensure just enough MPs don’t show up to vote them down.

Harper has also received support from the Bloc on budgets.

Before Harper, Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin had his minority government propped up by reasonable commitments to the NDP that he ignored, dismissively, much like last week’s budget tossed some crumbs towards the NDP policy demands for support of the budget.

And none of this is a constitutional crisis. It is, rather, the nuance of parliamentary democracy that in minority situations, there are structures to facilitate compromise and policies that reflect the majority of voters’ or MPs’ will.

But I cannot understand how when addressing Harper’s anti-coalition rhetoric, media, especially in BC, seem blind to the Conservative-Liberal coalition that has ruled BC for most of our living memory. That coalition has been a backroom arrangement in the Social Credit or Liberal party, not on the floor of the legislature, and has been the core issue in their party leadership race in recent months. And only time will tell if the new flavour of coalition leadership will hold.

This should be a blatantly obvious sign that Conservatives have spent generations in coalitions in various places in Canada, and Harper’s opposition to coalitions is ludicrous.

And yesterday, former Conservative MP John Cummins declared his intention to be leader of the BC Conservative Party. How have former Conservative MPs Stockwell Day and Jay Hill responded to the rebirth of this provincial party? They both characterized the BC Conservative Party activities as threatening to the Conservative-Liberal coalition in the ruling BC Liberal party, with Hill even saying,

hopefully the vast majority of conservatives will stay with the B.C. Liberal Party as the coalition party and reject what John is doing.

The media, in BC and Canada, and the citizens of the country, and especially BC, have ample example of Conservative participation in coalitions. We cannot bestow any legitimacy on Harper’s objections.

And truly, we should not limit our impatience with Harper’s rhetoric. Ignatieff’s federal Liberal party is part of the BC Liberal coalition with the Conservatives. His rejection of a potential coalition is crazy. His party has been as involved in them as the Conservatives, in BC and nationally.

A pox on both houses, if you ask me.

Political Leaders Must Be Activists

I’ve been quite disappointed in how President Obama’s relationship with the populace has shifted from being a facilitator of socio-political change with a high social media profile to a typical president who neglects opportunities to fully engage citizen activists with a progressive agenda. His failure to motivate the millions of people whose email addresses he collected, to in turn motivate Congress to let the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire is a classic example.

A few weeks ago in an interview in the Hindustan Times, Al Gore had a few words about leadership [italics is mine]:

How can individuals contribute to fight the climate change?

Some sensible choices like using more energy efficient light bulbs, more insulation and adopting less carbon consuming technologies can help. But, the bigger change will come at the policy level by the politicians. Leaders will have to become political activists and go at the grass root levels to speed up the process of fighting global warming.

via Need to speed up process of fighting global warming: Al Gore – Hindustan Times.

It’s the part of about leaders being activists that appears ground-breaking, but it’s really not. Movements start by people stepping up to lead, but too often politicians don’t see their role as being movement leaders. Voter turnout dropping below 50% in BC in 2009 demonstrates that people’s expectations of political leaders has evolved.

But will the next generation of political leaders in BC learn truly embrace this new climate?

Gillian Shaw reviewed some core rules for how leadership contenders [but really, any prospective political leader/activist] ought to use social media in motivating their constituency:

  1. Be honest
  2. Social networking is about dialogue
  3. “Not listening to people on Twitter would be like not answering our phone”
  4. Lose the generic website, Facebook and YouTube sites
  5. Go mobile or go home

People seeking leadership or even just policy influence need to understand that social media is not merely another one-way, broadcast advertising platform but a place particularly designed around human engagement. It’s either do social media correctly or skip it entirely, which has its own attached peril because people using social media will correctly conclude that a leader’s absence signals their neglect of that human platform.

So now that the BC NDP and BC Liberal leadership races are on, prospective leaders have the opportunity to put member engagement on the table as something needing a new paradigm compared to old 20th century ways of acknowledging members as people who simply join a political movement only to sub-contract their political activity to the “professionals.” More and more people today are not abrogating that responsibility.

Particularly if the BC NDP, for instance, is to become the electoral wing of a progressive social movement in BC, the party and caucus need to embrace the myriad of ways of facilitating that kind of engagement and inclusion, particularly by focusing on points 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 from my benchmark for evaluating political evolution:

1. We must build a social movement within the party

4. We must empower members and non-members

5. We must improve our relationship with the environment

6. We must improve our relationship with labour and other progressive groups

7. We must build a constructive relationship with progressive businesses

In February and April of next year we’ll see how 21st century BC politics can become.

What Do BC’s Non-Voting Majority Do?

Many have written about the discouraging reality of BC politics that for the first time our voter turnout dropped below 50% in the last provincial election. While there is clearly a massive and currently incomplete flux in how the public views politicians and political parties, there is the constant view out there that people will come back to parties because it is the elected politicians who can actually change things.

People seem to be caring less for that conclusion since most didn’t vote at all 18 months ago.

But what are people actually doing? Not only do 25% of British Columbians consider themselves to be activists, some are taking the position that regardless of party ideology or practice, activists are committing to an issue and pursuing any and all politicians to embrace their issue. That will lead to activist support.

Woe betide a politician who promises support for an issue then doesn’t deliver: responsive democracy.

And if you are looking for a bold example of this theory of what many of the non-voting majority are doing, look at the Common Sense Canadian for an expression of that very thing.

The Common Sense Canadian will support candidates or parties based not on their political philosophy, but on their commitment to saving our environment – not just because it’s beautiful but because to do otherwise is fiscal madness.

via Where We Stand on BC Politics & The Environment.

Saving our environment, to them, means these four demands:

  1. A re-commitment to protecting farmland, a “commitment that commits them to keep to their commitment”.
  2. A closure of all fish farms in our oceans especially near routes of migrating Pacific salmon while encouraging dry land operations.
  3. A commitment to keep our precious coast free of Tar Sands oil supertankers from the proposed Enbridge pipeline and Kinder-Morgan expansion.
  4. A commitment to end all licensing of private power construction, PLUS – and this is critical – making public all private power contracts in existence, coupled with a flat refusal to honour any which are unconscionable.

So if you happen to be one of the one million self-identifying activists in British Columbia, chances are you are thinking far more strategically about pursuing your issues than just joining a political party in hopes of pushing your issues. After all, even a generous estimate of 50,000 members of BC political parties is only 5% of the number of self-identifying activists in BC.

The playing field and rules of engagement are changing in BC. They’ve shifted a dozen times in the last 5 weeks. They will shift again a few times next week with more people declaring that they think they can lead the Liberal party. And they will shift more until February 26, 2011 when we’ll have a new premier, recall campaigns underway, new hints or promises about the HST and its referendum, changes to the minimum wage and a handful of other politically inflammatory policy issues.

Then when our new premier takes over, watch for an election call before 2013, a new throne speech and a new budget.

And that’s just with the Liberal party. The NDP, BC Conservatives, BC First, and various recently dormant political figures will be in play as well.

So if you have an issue, handcuff yourself to it and hop on your political surfboard because the waves will be undulating sometimes wildly in the next three months.

And keep your wits about you, while truly engaging with your instincts. You’ll need them both.

Tracking the BC Liberal Party’s Internal Democratic Deficit

It’s astonishing what kind of democratic deficit exists within the BC Liberal party. Their constitution calls for a one-member-one-vote leadership election, but the party has far from a robust, geographically membership base on the ground. How will they ever decide how to pick a new leader?

Energy Minister Bill Bennett said the voting system must be changed so that the vote isn’t entirely controlled by party members from the densely populated Lower Mainland.

Mr. Abbott, like Mr. Bennett, comes from a largely rural riding where the one-member, one-vote system would be a drawback.

via Behind-the-scenes battle raging in Liberal Party – The Globe and Mail.

Sure, no ever accused the BC Liberals of being overly populist. They are a corporate comprador party that happens to have human members. Candidates are parachuted into ridings and even “members” of the party are not eligible to actually vote for the leader without paying an additional fee that the party executive sets: two-tiered democracy! No surprise here.

The additional fee is offensive on principle, but in practice, it may end up being a fundraising vehicle or a manufactured barrier to participation. Imagine the provincial executive meeting this weekend sets a $1,000 fee for transforming oneself from a “common” member to a “preferred” member capable of voting for a leader.

This government has always been a fan of market-based Darwinian inequality over universality, so it would be no surprise to see a significant barrier to participating in a vote for the leader.

The party is locked into a “one person, one vote” mechanism – now the party’s constitutional lawyer is reviewing just how much flexibility can be wrung from that wording.

A core alternative is to allow delegated voting, so that each of the 85 ridings would be able to cast equal ballots.

What all this reflects is that the party does not care about, or is incapable of, expanding meaningful membership depth in all areas of the province. With a 4-year party membership costing only $10, and with a preponderance of members in the lower mainland, perhaps the party should reap what it neglects: one-member-one-vote means those who bother to join get to vote, the rest of the province be damned.

If the party neglects most regions of the province, so be it.

But if the party wants to move to a delegated voting system, and its constitutional lawyer can tease that out of the constitution, then the party will essentially be admitting an error in not caring about developing a broad membership base around the province.

It sure looks bad for them either way.

What is certain is that the tone of political expectations is changing in the 21st century. Organizations with overt expressions that oppose rich, populist, inclusive democratic participation risk losing their significance. The declining voter turnout reflects that shift in expectations.

The rest of November is sure to be tumultuous for politics in BC. When the BC Liberal executive pins down some details of the leadership convention this weekend, contenders will react and jockey. When the BC NDP provincial council meets the following weekend in Victoria, the nature of their deliberations will be affected by what happens with the Liberal executive this weekend. Since the NDP provincial council is largely comprised of delegates from the 85 riding associations, there is a great opportunity for participatory democracy to occur.

Things are moving fast. Don’t go more than a few days without keeping up.

Premier Abbott and the September 24, 2011 BC Election

I owe a debt of gratitude to Charlie Smith for saving me the time of writing all about how May 2013 won’t be the next provincial election date. I was going to say all this before he wrote about it yesterday, but I have more below.

One thing is clear: the next B.C. election will likely take place well before 2013.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that the next leader of the B.C. Liberal party will be chosen within the next seven months.

It’s unlikely that this person will sit as premier for almost two years without a mandate from the electorate.

via Premier Gordon Campbell’s resignation guarantees Carole James will lead NDP in next election | Vancouver, Canada | Straight.com.

The rest of his article is about how Carole James will lead the NDP into the next earlier-than-expected election. He’s right about the lack of time for the party to vote her off the island, but if she happens to voluntarily resign there would be a new leader.

What we’ve seen with Campbell is pressure from inside the party for him to leave. Languishing at 9% approval rating in the polls for weeks wasn’t enough to dislodge him. In the coming days, we’ll hear more about the caucus revolt and the members planning to resign from caucus if he didn’t quit. Thus we’ll see what it took for him to lead himself out the door.

So, if Carole James happens to not be the leader of the NDP in the next election it won’t have anything to do with what happens at their next convention in 55 weeks, but it will be an internal matter.

But getting back to Premier Abbott, I’m prepared to go on the record with my prediction that George Abbott will be the next Liberal leader and he’ll pair a provincial election for a valid mandate with the HST referendum on September 24, 2011. That will save a pile of cash.

Earlier yesterday I expected there to be a short, quiet, backroom caucus deal for a new leader leading into their Penticton convention later this month. This would avoid a long, bloody skirmish that would make the Vancouver Board of Trade nervous.

Happily I was spared that now irrelevant prediction by learning last night that the party’s postponing/canceling its convention. Whew.

So why Abbott? He’s a level-headed moderate compared to Campbell’s golden straightjacket, knife-wielding, neoliberal privatization agenda. He certainly drank the Liberal Kool-Aid all along and has his right wing elements that are worrisome, but he was the only one to ever call the premier on his bullying tone. And he paid for it with a cabinet demotion. Bill Bennett did it too just days ago, but that doesn’t count because Campbell was already a lame duck leader.

Regardless of whoever is running the BC NDP, the backroom wisdom of the Liberal party will want someone who at least appears more moderate leading into the next election. Anyone more moderate would evaporate whatever wedging the NDP has been doing in appealing to the centre, centre-right and business interests.

The next variable to scuttle my prediction of the election date will be if the HST ends up at risk of being pulled before the referendum in September, which I think will be wildly unlikely. Ultimately, there is no need to sacrifice the HST when Campbell offered himself up as the samurai fall guy.

At least I got that prediction right.

Regardless, we are in for some interesting times in every aspect of provincial politics in the next few weeks and months. And don’t forget that there are municipal elections scheduled for across the province in 54 weeks, so the farm teams of provincial parties will have members jockeying for positions to be called up to the show, this may include various mayors. And with the possibility of Chuck Strahl and other federal politicians being drafted or jumping into the mix, we could see the face of BC politics on all levels transform significantly before September 2011 ends.