Top of Mind - December 20, 2010

Is it wise for provincial Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark to reject calls for a public inquiry into the controversy surrounding the privatization of British Columbia Railway Co.'s assets?

"The government has decided they're not going to call a public inquiry into it. As far as I'm concerned Bill, it's case closed." That's what Ms. Clark told CKNW's Bill Good last Monday. But, from one perspective, that might not the most politick positioning for Ms. Clark. After all, she should could effectively deflect questions about her past and present connections to individuals who were involved in that privatization proces by stating, "I support a full public inquiry into this issue. As I've said many times before, I had no involvement with it. But the public deserves answers and I'm going to make sure they get them." However, from another perspective, such an inquiry could cause significant problems for Ms. Clark's government should she succeed Gordon Campbell as premier. After all, it's uncertain what information that proceeding would uncover. Just look at when happened to Paul Martin as a result of the Gomery Commission.

Which provincial Liberal leadership candidate will Solicitor General Rich Coleman support?

Mr. Coleman has one of the best developed support bases within the party. So his backing would be a good get for any of those hoping to succeed Gordon Campbell. But his endorsement would mean the most for Ms. Clark. The former CKNW talk show host doesn't presently have any caucus support other than Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Harry Bloy and she's an anathema to some federal Conservatives, who see her as being too associates with the federal Liberals. But Mr. Coleman's support would burnish Ms. Clark's right-wing credentials, as well as adding an important insider voice to her outsider bid to become leader. The solicitor general is expected to make his endorsement decision in early January.

What will the provincial New Democrats leadership selection process mean for the party from a political perspective?

The party will use a one-member, one-vote system for electing Carole James's successor. A proposal to change that system so less populous rural ridings would have more of a say was ruled out of order at this weekend's provincial council meeting. That could create an unfavourable comparison between the New Democrats and the Liberals.

After all, the governing party's provincial executive has recommended just such a change - which, if approved, will reduce the influence of more populous urban ridings and, conceivably, some ethnic communities. But that recommendation does have its critics.

In an interview last month with The Province's Michael Smyth, former provincial cabinet minister Gulzar Cheema said it punishes "a specific group or region, simply because they are more politically active or organized? It's not fair. The party has had the same rules for electing its leader for 17 years, and I don't see why it should be changed now."

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