Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Christy Clark's Bad Decision

A lot of people disparage the BC Liberals as "not true liberals" - that the majority of members of the provincial Liberals are big-C and small-c conservatives, that fled the once-dominant Social Credit Party after its collapse in the 1990s to take over and control the resurgent Liberal Party. In the 1991 election, the Liberals certainly grew in size, coming in second to the New Democrats under Mike Harcourt; Social Credit, led by then-Premier Rita Johnston, collapsed during that election, and totally died off by the time 1996 rolled around. The conservatives, both the urbane moderates and the socially conservative ruralites, found a new home. Gordon Campbell's ascension to party head, and then Premier in 2001, only confirmed this reality.

But the truth is of course more complicated. The BC Liberals are the province's free market party, and represent the province's economically-minded, business-oriented population. Its always been less about social conservatism for the BC Libs, and more about economic liberalism/conservatism/neoliberalism, or whatever you'd like to call it. Privatization and open markets are the by-words. The opposite end is represented by, of course, the NDP. So when you think about the BC Liberals, think about free market, rather than conservative. It just makes oodles more sense in the right context.

If I was in BC, I would vote for the BC Liberals, hands down. I support the free market, I support most business-oriented policies, and I would support a government that focuses more on such things than on anything else. If an election had to come down to social policy, I'd be a lot more waffly between the two options; but so far, BC elections have not come down to such things. Its about the economy, its about resource management, its about the environment, and its about good government. In all aspects, I support the general inclination (though definitely not all the specifics) of BC Liberal philosophy.

This is a lot of exposition, because I want to get the point across how disgusting and stupid I find the recent decision by Christy Clark and her new Finance Minister, Mike de Jong, to not allow BC's legislature to sit is.

Whatever their reasons - de Jong gave it as "we need to focus on our fiscal situation" - it's just stupid. You can work on taming the deficit while you represent, make laws, and actually do the job that BCers elected you to do. Governments can, surprisingly enough, multitask. You have a large, experienced bureaucracy there, filled with thousands of workers who can crunch numbers and get you your coffee at the same time.

Its one thing to not open a legislature during a time of transition - the other reason they said they're doing this. I understand that. Prorouging a legislature, when not used to avoid a confidence vote, has its place. But this is simply refusal to allow the legislature to sit at all. No one will be sitting in Victoria for nine months. That's ludicrous, and irresponsible.

Another aspect of it is political. Clark heads a government with the worst polling numbers in the country, even worse than the Ontario Liberals, and far worse than the federal Conservatives. 20-25% of the vote is not good territory for a party that has routinely gotten above 40% support since the mid-1990's. There has been a couple of polls right now showing slight improvement - but I guarantee those gains will be wiped out by this decision, a very public one that Evan Solomon called Clark out on. The BC Conservatives, who have been gaining on the Liberals but have yet to surpass them, and are currently facing leadership issues, will likely get a boon from this. I would not be surprised in the least if the BC Liberals become stuck under 20% of the vote and behind the Conservatives in the next few months. Stupid decision for a party that wants to try and maintain its government - but I suppose that is what you get from a party that thinks changing its name will get it votes. Because, you know, the confusion really hurt them the past twenty years or so.

The final aspect is simply the lack of confidence anyone will feel in this government now. How can you place your confidence in a government and a party led by someone who can't even be bothered to allow the legislature to sit?

It hurts me to see Clark, who held such promise as a potential leader for a Liberal Party of some nature, end up so low. Its clear that she isn't suited for the job of party leader and Premier. When you can't even be bothered to open the legislature, to face your Opposition and the public and be accountable for your actions, you've lost all right to govern.


  1. You have missed the point about the coming BC election. It is not about the economy and different approaches to that by different political paties. The coming election is about trust.

    The Liberals have just about destroyed our trust in them as a governing force by repeatedly saying one thing to get elected, then doing something else once elected. The two grossest examples are, of course, the sell off of BC Rail at a fire-sale price and the absolutely incompetent fiasco of the HST, when the voters rose up in disgust. Those are not the only examples, just the grossest.

    Fundamentally, it doesn't matter what Christy Clarke and her companions do for the next nine months, nor what they say. Nobody, neither supporters nor opponents, believes what they say anyway.

    As to their handling of the economy, the Liberals have done a poorer job than the NDP with only about two thirds the economic growth (about 2% annually compared to the NDP 3%). They have also tripled the accumulated debt for the province due to unrealistic tax policy which have not provided sufficient money for government services for several years, resulting in repeated deficits, the largest the province has ever seen, as it happens.

  2. BDL's assessment is spot on. Most of the accumulated provincial debt is indeed the product of the conservative government. They have been in service to a constituency other than the voting public which was what necessitated their rank dishonesty. This style of governance is not new. Clark didn't conceive it. Ever since Campbell came to power with a solid majority they've been "calling it in."

  3. You two are the folks that are missing the point right now, but thanks for the comments anyways.

  4. I agree with BDL too as it's clear that the BC liberals are nothing but Socruds in Fiberal clothing.