Politicians rarely exit voluntarily. In most cases, they're driven out by declining popularity, scandals, or health concerns.
This morning, I heard former NDP cabinet minister Moe Sihota explain why he thought Premier Gordon Campbell will step down after the 2010 Olympics. Sihota, one of the few politicians to leave voluntarily, said he could tell by Campbell's body language that he won't seek reelection.
I disagree. I think Campbell is one of those politicians who will never leave unless the voters force him out or if some unexpected surprise—such as the court case involving former B.C. Liberal political aides—blows up in his face.
Campbell is a workaholic who probably wouldn't know what to do with his time if he wasn't a politician. He has trouble delegating authority to his cabinet ministers. He hogs the limelight for most major government announcements. He ran a reelection campaign that revolved solely around his leadership.
I'm tempted to call it the cult-of-personality campaign except I'm not sure that Campbell really has much of a personality.
It's not as if he hasn't attempted to develop one. This year, Campbell has tried to morph into a friendly grandfather who's looking out for future generations at the same time he's selling off B.C. rivers and presiding over a growing gap between rich and poor in this province.
In the recent election campaign, he has strengthened one of his weak spots by recruiting several capable female candidates who got elected.
The NDP is going to have to regroup after losing its third straight campaign, and faces a potentially divisive leadership campaign.
If NDP Leader Carole James doesn't step down, then the knives will be out, which will undermine party unity going into the next election.
Meanwhile, the Greens have proven to be useful allies to the B.C. Liberals. And the Greens show no sign of wanting to withdraw from provincial politics.
Given all of these realities, why would Campbell want to retire? To spend time with his grandchildren? That's the type of talk we hear from politicians who are on the verge of losing elections, and not from those who've just won their third straight majority government.
Campbell also loves meeting celebrities like Arnold Schwarzennegger and the Dalai Lama, and that's far less likely to occur if he decides to retire.
Keep in mind that Jean Chretien didn't leave voluntarily. He was pushed out by members of his own party.
Brian Mulroney didn't leave voluntarily. He had no alternative because his poll numbers were so rotten. The same was true for Glen Clark and Mike Harcourt.
George Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan, and Paul Martin didn't quit because they suddenly became senior citizens.
There have been B.C. Liberal politicians in the past who might have thought if they hung around long enough, they could have a shot at becoming premier. Campbell has proven all of them wrong.
Gary Collins, Geoff Plant, Christy Clark, Carole Taylor, and Rich Coleman all know by now that Campbell's not the type of politician who leaves office willingly.
We're stuck with Gordo whether we like it or not. And if the NDP assumes otherwise and focuses more attention on Campbell's lieutenants—like Colin Hansen and Kevin Falcon—the Opposition could be making a big mistake.
My bet is the only way we'll see the backside of Gordo is if the public tunes out the mainstream media and votes him out of office. The next chance will be in 2013.