Blair Lekstrom loses his lustre
One of the B.C. Liberal government's more popular politicians appears to have lost his touch.
Over the past decade, Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom has often benefited from more positive media coverage than that of his colleagues. His blue-collar sensibility, penchant for motorcycles, and independent streak have set him apart from the pack.
But things have gone sour over the past couple of weeks as the Peace River South MLA has turned himself into an object of ridicule.
This week when the B.C. Liberal cabinet was holding a retreat in West Kelowna, Lekstrom took the opportunity to announce the "milestone" half-completion of a Highway 97 to Winfield project.
Castanet Media was one of the media outlets that made Lekstrom look like a fool for using government resources for a photo opportunity while he was in the neighbourhood.
Blair Lekstrom gets pilloried.
The previous week, Lekstrom announced a $400,000 government advertising campaign to encourage motorists to use the new Port Mann Bridge.
Last night on Global TV, sportscaster Squire Barnes cracked jokes about not needing an advertisement to know the location of the Port Mann Bridge.
On a more serious note, a commenter on Straight.com, transportation researcher Eric Doherty, put it this way:
Blair Lekstrom launches advertising blitz to get motorists to burn more tar sands oil.
Blair Lekstrom launches advertising blitz to get motorists to pollute Fraser Valley air.
Blair Lekstrom launches advertising blitz to get motorists to cook planet.
Earlier this week in yet another rebuke to the transportation minister, the mayors' council rejected his offer for two seats on TransLink's unelected board of directors.
Lekstrom took a swipe at the mayors by accusing them of seeking total control over TransLink. By implication, he seems to think it's better for the Lower Mainland that its transportation system be totally controlled by an MLA from Peace River South, even though he has nothing to do with land-use planning in the region.
Over the years, Lekstrom has been one of the mavericks in the B.C. Liberal tent, which previously served him well.
In 2010, he resigned from caucus and cabinet over the way the harmonized sales tax was introduced. It turned him into a bit of a folk hero across the province for standing up to the hated Gordon Campbell.
In 2002, he endeared himself to the labour movement, at least temporarily, by voting against government bills tearing up contracts with health workers and teachers. The courts later ruled that those bills were unconstitutional because they infringed on workers' constitutional right to freedom of association.
As the community development minister before the 2009 election, Lekstrom didn't suffer any political fallout for clearing the way for the City of Vancouver to take on a massive Olympic Village debt.
As energy minister, Lekstrom oversaw a massive increase in the fracking of natural gas, which involves the injection of chemicals and massive amounts of water to extract the resource. Despite the negative environmental consequences including potential threats to drinking water, Lekstrom did not endure much criticism apart from some well-directed barbs from B.C. Tap Water Alliance coordinator Will Koop.
After Campbell announced his resignation as premier in November 2010, Lekstrom said that the B.C. Liberals were "doomed for failure" if the next B.C. Liberal leader didn't introduce some real change.
If he was suggesting at the time that "real change" meant holding a photo-op to announce a half-completed highway or spending $400 grand of taxpayers' money to advertise the existence of the Port Mann Bridge, then he can no longer claim to be the King Midas of provincial politics.
One thing hasn't changed. And that's the B.C. Liberal government's insistence on ramming transportation decisions on the region regardless of how they may be received by locally elected mayors.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.