Party leaders will say all the right things to deny the obvious: we're campaigning for the votes of all British Columbians, we don't take any vote for granted, or we're running to win in all 85 ridings. But after all that voter ID, statistical analysis and polling, strategists know very well that there's likely less than 250,000 voters living in less than half of B.C.'s 85 ridings who will actually count on May 14. And the two main parties will fish where the fish are.
When Christy Clark took over as premier of British Columbia two years ago, she had a window of opportunity to change taxpayers' perceptions of her government. To improve her chances in the 2013 election, Clark needed to throw out unpopular and unworkable ideas brought in by her predecessor Gordon Campbell. In a symbolic way, she needed to string a huge banner over the B.C. Legislature that said, "Under New Management."
With the May 14 provincial election approaching, I have decided that this time is going to be different; this time I will be informed. Becoming politically savvy evokes anxiety for an amateur like me. I have to sift through an overload of messages, rhetoric, jargon, and buzzwords. I can't compete with the political junkie, and I don't intend to. I just want to make sense of the basics.
Legislative oversight is fundamental to good government. And with less and less of it, the government does more and more by decree. B.C. isn't well-served by that. In 2012, the B.C. legislature sat for 47 days. Among its numerous legislative duties: to debate and approve a $44-billion budget. Forty-seven days is simply insufficient to do that and everything else well.
Timing is everything in B.C. politics. And wouldn't you know, it's also the essence of thousands of Bollywood films. A chance meeting that develops into forbidden love? Bollywood. The moment the evil uncle clunks granny on the head and makes off with the family fortune, leaving the heroine a pauper? Bollywood. But who thought India's prolific Hindi film industry would be at the centre of a dramatic saga of its own, playing out on location over the next five months across British Columbia's political soundstage?
Never in my 18 years in radio did I ever think that I'd become the story, especially about something that I thought was a cheeky, throwaway question to B.C. Premier Christy Clark: "What's it like being a MILF?" The question was laughed at, then answered, and that was that. There's a fine line in radio, and if you cross it all hell can break loose, I crossed that line — well, that station's version of the line anyway.
B.C.'s budgets are chalk full of household terms like "Notional Allocations to Contingencies." What they are not is an exercise in clarity or brevity. The B.C. government's 2012 budget came in at a mind-numbing 64,000 words — or one-third the length of the Old Testament.
If B.C. politics has really changed as some suggest, then Andrew Weaver of the Green Party should have been hailed for his integrity. Instead, he was shrugged off as a newbie. So what are we looking for from the women and men we elect to public office in B.C.? Is it the kind of credentials we need to face the great economic, environmental and social challenges of the 21st century, or is it merely a thick skin?
Trust must be the cornerstone of the relationship between a government and its taxpayers. Every year, we hand over our hard-earned money a bank account worth $42 billion to our politicians. We expect them to run our affairs professionally and efficiently and to keep us well-informed on their plans. When that trust erodes, it's very difficult for government to earn it back. But it can be done, if Clark and de Jong are willing to change their behaviour.
Sometimes when you want to know how prudent a political party will be with the taxpayer's dime, it doesn't hurt to consider how prudent they are when it comes to spending their own dime at party headquarters. Compared to their counterparts in other provinces, the B.C. Liberal party spends like there's no tomorrow. And it's spending that increasingly points to something ominous: election campaigns that never end.
If the B.C. NDP have sprung to life, they have a strange way of showing it off, by failing to sign up members and sending experienced candidates packing. In contrast, supporters of the B.C. Liberal Party are showing up in strong numbers and backing A-listers.
If voters were under the impression that it's only provincially in B.C. where corporate and union bucks talk tough, think again. Consider how much each candidate running for a mayor's chair in various Lower Mainland municipalities had to raise for their campaign in last year's local elections.
Once upon a time, a popular opposition firebrand named Christy Clark stood up in the B.C. Legislature to rip the NDP government for spending tax dollars on shameless, self-promoting advertising. Fast forward 13 years and there was Clark, now B.C. Liberal premier, last week holding court for 90 seconds of taxpayer-funded TV ad time to laud her B.C. Jobs Plan -- even promising that four more weekly installments are on the way.
Vancouver City Coun. Geoff Meggs, considered to be a slam dunk to win the Vancouver-Fairview nomination lost badly to former union boss and Sierra Club executive director George Heyman, creating online buzz thanks to its unexpected outcome. What is perhaps most interesting about Sunday's vote, however, is the way it illustrated both the close ties and competing agendas of Vision Vancouver and the B.C. NDP.
When the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down the government's not-so-subtle attempt to stifle citizens with its ill-advised "gag" law this month, it was only a partial victory. Regrettably, the court never had the chance to consider the multitude of contradictions and loopholes that exist in the B.C. Election Act, most of which are the result of shoddy legislative maintenance
Faulty advertising rules caused extensive problems for small spenders such as non-profit and charity groups during the 2009 B.C. election. The rules led to widespread confusion, wasted resources, anxiety and, most dangerously, self-censorship among organizations that spent little or nothing on election advertising. The government should have (and could have) fixed this situation when it was amending the law this spring, but chose not to.