Russell: Watts is "electoral lighting in a bottle"

We could blink our eyes and find Dianne Watts is the premier of British Columbia. We'd know very little about her. We may even find things we disagree with. But she could be handed the leadership of the provincial Liberals by its members and the premiership of the province by its residents in a flash. She is electoral lightning in a bottle.

Let me be clear, I don't know Mayor Watts. I wouldn't recognize her if she walked up to me. And I know nothing about her except this: she has expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the premier's job; is not a member of the government we've had, has a resume that suggests above average competence at anything she has done in public life so far; and is being spun as an accidental and reluctant politician. I don't find it surprising then that she is topping polls asking people how they'd vote in the next provincial election based on possible successors to Gordon Campbell.

People are fed up with how they are being governed and those who are doing the governing. And they have no time for those who seem a little too eager to jump in rather than "wait for the call." They believe that any change won't hurt and are willing to cast their ballots for literally anyone as evidence of that. Put another way, across North America there is a popular uprising that is not being led by Sarah Palin in the U.S., Rob Ford in Toronto or Bill Vander Zalm in our own province. These people, some possibly delusional, simply ran to the front of a parade that had already formed.

People are angry and just want a change from the status quo. Change is what they voted for in the recent mid terms in the U.S., as well as the Toronto mayoralty race. And it was what they were saying when they signed the harmonized sales tax petition, overwhelming rejecting the Campbell administration by proxy. It's useless to argue with their choices.

There is nothing new in any of this. Even competent governments have been thrown from office by the same phenomena, being replaced with radical agendas - sometimes with disastrous results and sometimes not.

Getting elected is the easy part when people are demanding change, any change. Actually accomplishing change is the hard part - particularly when a public so committed to it are unable to articulate the change they want and there are no political leaders gifted enough to do it for them.

Barack Obama was elected with a "change mandate" and there was "hope" that he might be able to define it. But his failure to do so is probably more responsible than anything else for the palpable anger that is informing American politics today and perhaps even the anger we see within our own borders.

Back here in British Columbia, a Liberal party unencumbered by concerns about anything other than winning could flock to Mayor Watts - especially if the polls show her to be the overwhelming choice of a public that knows little about her. The demands on her to run could, therefore, be overwhelming as it becomes apparent to both her - as well as other potential leadership candidates - the ease with which she could become premier.

If she were to elected leader while not sacrificing her "freshness," then a province looking at a tired NDP (even if Carole James is replaced) as the alternative could overwhelmingly endorse the Liberals' choice because it would have in effect been theirs.

But would any other change then follow? As President Obama, much to his future regret, said recently "change...but." In other words and to re-emphasize, getting elected on a change platform is easy - you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Look at some of loonies who've managed to do it recently. Fortunately by all accounts, Mayor Watts is no "looney."

Bob Russell, a businessman and former civil servant, was chief of staff for the provincial Liberals in Alberta from 1986 to 1989. In 2004, he ran for the federal Liberal nomination in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

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