Call it the 16-year itch. Christy Clark and the BC Liberals are looking more and more like a government that has worn out its welcome.
This was bound to happen at some point, even to a party like the Liberals who enjoy the overwhelming support of the province’s business and media establishment. Sometimes the grudges and resentments build up, and the corruption and cronyism just get to be too much.
The last party to rule for this long in B.C. was the old Socreds, who unravelled amidst scandal and corruption in 1991 when the NDP swept them away after nearly 16 years in office. The Liberals, who in the wake of the Socreds became the dominant corporate party in B.C., swept into power in 2001.
The HST debacle that brought down Gordon Campbell has eclipsed the real signature feature of the Liberals in the early years of their rule: giveaways to their corporate friends. The nearly forgotten B.C. Rail scandal that exploded in 2003 was characteristic: they privatized a profitable Crown corporation, after explicitly promising they wouldn’t. The backroom dealings around the sale were so shady the RCMP ended up raiding the legislature, bribes were revealed, and two senior aides to the B.C. Liberal government eventually took the fall.
All these years later the RCMP is again scrutinizing the governing party, this time with respect to the growing political fundraising scandal exposed by the Globe and Mail and other outlets. A special prosecutor has just been brought on to assist the police investigation.
The B.C. Rail fiasco and today’s political fundraising scandal are fitting bookends to the Liberals’ time in office. Giveaways to their corporate friends, and gifts from their corporate friends. The circle of corruption.
As the election campaign gets underway, Clark’s House of Cards looks fragile. Her NDP challengers, the only party with a chance to replace the Liberals and form government, have started to roll out a broad series of commitments that if implemented would be an enormous breath of fresh air for B.C.
Start with the bottom line for all those at the bottom of the pyramid in B.C. The NDP has committed to raising the minimum wage to $15/hr and to implementing $10/day childcare. These are two long overdue reforms that would help people pay their bills. It should be noted that, especially in the Lower Mainland, $15 is still too low; a liveable wage is over $20/hr in this overpriced city. But it’s a huge step in the right direction.
The NDP also promises to invest tens of millions more in co-op housing, eliminate MSP premiums, ban corporate and union donations and put stricter limits on individual donations. This would bring B.C. in line with other provinces that have cracked down on pay-to-play corruption. The Liberals have stalled and stalled on this issue, brazenly continuing to stuff their coffers.
The BC Greens, running third in the polls, offer a sharper stance in opposition to LNG and the Site C Dam than the BC NDP. But they remain effectively a regional party, with a shot at picking up a few more seats on Vancouver Island.
Their leader, Andrew Weaver, is an accomplished climate scientist but hardly seems cut out for the coalition building required of politics. And, unlike Green parties in other jurisdictions around the world who have moved to fill a vacuum on the left, he apparently has no desire to stake out a position to the left of Horgan and the NDP.
In fact, Weaver seems to relish sparring with the NDP as much as the governing Liberals and has been known to be particularly cantankerous towards social movement activists and even fellow Greens with whom he disagrees. After the federal Green Party passed a resolution supporting boycott tactics in response to Israel’s violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territories, Weaver lashed out, stating the federal party had been “hijacked” and that his provincial party was even considering changing its name.
With the election looming, Weaver has suddenly been the recipient of sympathetic media coverage in Postmedia outlets and Global TV.
Horgan and the B.C. NDP, meanwhile, have been targeted by blanket negative ads absurdly misrepresenting their policies on the resource sector in B.C. These ads, which would be laughable if they weren’t so harmful, are funded by the “dark money” types who have made B.C. notorious as the Wild West of political financing.
These well-funded attacks on the NDP tell us all we need to know about who the corporate elite in B.C., especially the fossil fuel industry, are worried about this election.
The vote in May will be a rare chance for regime change in this province. Let’s hope the electorate makes it a sweet sixteen for B.C.