Top of Mind - October 25, 2010

What can we expect from Premier Gordon Campbell's televised speech on Wednesday?

The premier will likely use that speech to announce a series of economic and education policy announcements which he hopes will change the narrative surrounding his government. But working against the premier will be his reputation for writing such policies on the back of a napkin or culling them from his Christmas reading list and then casting them aside when something more fashionable catches his attention. That means he'll have to overcome an innate skepticism of whatever he rolls out on Wednesday - a skepticism that will be heightened by his own personal unpopularity. In addition, the Liberals' upcoming biennial convention may get in the way of writing a new narrative for his administration. After all, what happens if the leadership review results announced at that convention go against him?

Have Attorney General Mike de Jong chances of winning a provincial Liberal leadership race changed?

Because of his association with the Campbell administration's controversial decision to introduce a harmonized sales tax, it's unlikely Colin Hansen will run to succeed Mr. Campbell should he resign as leader of the provincial Liberals. So who will the party's federal Liberals organize behind? Well, Mr. de Jong is one name that has been bandied about. But will Mr. de Jong's chances in that race will be compromised by his association with the legislature raid trial's abrupt conclusion. Yes, the attorney general didn't make the deal that saw former ministerial assistants David Basi and Bobby Virk plead guilty to reduced charges. Nor did he make the decision to not recover millions of dollars in defence costs from Messrs. Basi and Virk. But he has been the public face for both those decision.

Where does the unrest surrounding provincial New Democrat leader Carole James go from here?

Ms. James is a very lucky woman. Last week, the abrupt conclusion of the legislature raid trial diverted attention away from that unrest. This week, the premier's cabinet "realignment" and televised state-of-the-province speech will do the same thing. Resolutions and executive motions from party constituency associations calling for a leadership convention in 2011 or the reinstatement of Bob Simpson to the opposition benches could give the story some further legs. But unless another MLA expresses public dissatisfaction with Ms. James, there might not be much fuel left for this fire until the New Democrats provincial council meets on November 19. That's where the aforementioned resolutions could come up for debate - if they're not deemed out of order first.

Why are centrists dissatisfied with Ms. James's leadership?

Last week, we noted the present row over Ms. James's leadership of the provincial New Democrats isn't necessarily about a left-centre divide within the party. Indeed, those on both sides of the divide have expressed private and public dissatisfaction with Ms. James.

In part, that dissatisfaction has to due with her longstanding approach toward politics. Speaking with Public Eye seven years ago, during the New Democrat leadership race, Ms. James refused to characterize herself as being from the left or the centre.

"Well, people try and put labels on things. And I'm not a believer in labels for the people I've work with either. I don't think it is a matter of moving left or centre," she stated.

Instead, Ms. James explained, "I am a firm believer in social justice. I am a firm believer in equality and equity. And some would call me fiscally responsible." But most important, was her "deep belief in inclusive governing and inclusive decision-making."

This last characteristic is seen by supporters as her principle strength (although now former caucus chair Norm Macdonald would likely disagree). But it's may also be her principle weakness - resulting in what some see as a cautious, reactive and, at times, mushy approach toward policy issues.

After seven years, this approach has alienated those who would like to see more definitive positions from Ms. James. And it's that alienation which has brought her opponents on the left and centre together.

2 Comments

I think only the most dye-in-the-wool supporters will watch Premier Campbell... unless it leaks that it's a farewell speech.

Also I'm sure a Premier Mary Polak is possible... contingent on keeping the MCFD Ministry & bending the child poverty curve down as promised.

Finally BCNDP Leader Carole James just got lucky. In a way, so did the BCLibs in the prism of 2013.

We have now seen that Gordon Campbell has re-arranged the usual suspects on different deck chairs as his ship is sinking. However, we have also learned that Martyn Brown is being replaced by Paul Taylor. What does this mean?

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