NDP should assume that the B.C. Liberal leadership race is underway

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      Today, Malcolm Parry's gossip column in the Vancouver Sun features a photo of former B.C. finance minister Carole Taylor with her husband, former Vancouver mayor Art Phillips.

      The caption questions whether or not Taylor will return to politics.

      Until she definitively and publicly declares that she's not interested in becoming the next B.C. Liberal leader, the NDP should assume that she's already running for the job.

      Taylor is the only high-profile B.C. Liberal who has condemned the harmonized sales tax, which will jack up the price of many services by seven percent.

      Premier Gordon Campbell's decision to introduce the tax with no public consultation has doomed his chance of ever getting reelected. He's a dead duck.

      Taylor, a former Vancouver Board of Trade chair, has been appointed to numerous boards. The corporate bosses who fund the party will trust her not to tinker too much with campaign-finance reform, which would diminish their hold over B.C. politics.

      From 2005 to 2009, she also didn't get in the way of Campbell's privatization agenda, which included selling off control of B.C. rivers.

      And she kept quiet about cost overruns on the Canada Line and the expansion of the Vancouver Convention Centre. That will have further endeared her to the Vancouver Board of Trade.

      As a former broadcaster and former CBC chair, Taylor has an unmatched ability to solicit positive media coverage.

      Another plus from a political standpoint is her strong support within the Chinese Canadian business community. Her biggest drawback? The right-wing ideologues don't trust her, as demonstrated by her longstanding opposition to a harmonized sales tax.

      Looking around the cabinet table, the only serious opponent to Taylor would be Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon.

      He has the organizational skills, media savvy, combativeness, and a sufficiently pro-business orientation to attract a great deal of financial support.

      Keep in mind that Falcon was the guy who advanced Campbell's deregulation agenda after the 2001 election.

      Falcon also organized the Total Recall movement when Campbell was in opposition.

      And Falcon has probably been the strongest proponent of public-private partnerships in government.

      If Falcon can tap into B.C.'s rising religious right and cobble together some support in B.C.'s ethnic communities, he could easily move to the front of any B.C. Liberal leadership contest.

      Surrey, where Falcon lives, is a hothouse of right-wing religious fervour and immigrant voters, so don't think for a moment that this isn't already on his mind.

      The rest of the field would be no match for Taylor or Falcon, who has sometimes been derided as a "punk" by Burnaby's colourful mayor, Derek Corrigan.

      The minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation, George Abbott, might have the intellect for the job, but he's too boring to light any fires during a leadership campaign.

      The transportation minister, Shirley Bond, is nearly as dull, which rules her out. If she runs, it would only be to throw her support behind the eventual winner and preserve her spot at the cabinet table.

      Attorney General Mike de Jong is occasionally mentioned as a possible successor to Campbell, but he probably isn't close enough to the downtown Vancouver business community to get the job.

      Environment Minister Barry Penner is too earnest. Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid is too inexperienced.

      Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Bill Bennett is too clumsy, as demonstrated by his intemperate e-mails and by a campaign ad that inflamed aboriginal people by implying that they don't pay tax.

      The minister of everything, Rich Coleman, is likely serving out his last term in the legislature. If all this was happening in 2005, he and Chilliwack-Sumas MLA John Les would probably be among the front runners.

      Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom doomed his chances by walking out of the caucus. This probably won't be forgiven for a while by his colleagues.

      One dark horse could be Iain Black, the minister of small business, technology and economic development.

      If Falcon were to stumble, Black could emerge as a right-of-centre alternative in an anybody-but-Taylor movement. He's a former high-tech executive who lives in Port Moody, which is one of Vancouver's more upper-crust suburbs.

      Much is being made of Surrey mayor Dianne Watts's chance of becoming the next B.C. Liberal leader.

      Watts probably doesn't even know where the washroom is in the legislature, let alone any of the house rules or the pressing issues in other parts of the province.

      If the party chose her, it would be a sign of how desperate the B.C. Liberals have become in the wake of the HST fiasco.

      NDP MLAs find themselves in a difficult position because Taylor or Falcon could make mincemeat of their leader, Carole James, in 2013.

      But if the Opposition members state the obvious, they'll be branded as disloyal. So they'll probably sit on the sidelines until it's too late to do anything about it.

      Those on the left who worry about the prospect of Kevin Falcon becoming premier and further privatizations can take action.

      One option would be to buy a membership in the NDP and try to oust James as leader next year.

      There are many potential successors in the NDP who could probably compete more effectively against Falcon or Taylor than the current leader.

      On the leftish side, they include Mayor Corrigan or his wife Kathy (who is the MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake), Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix, Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan, Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Herbert, Skeena MP Nathan Cullen, and Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian, among others.

      On the right side of the party, Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth, Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson, anti-HST rabble rouser Bill Tieleman, former acting NDP leader Joy MacPhail, Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan, and Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson would all likely provide the NDP with a better chance against Taylor or Falcon.

      If the NDP wanted a really lively campaign, it would install populist Delta North MLA Guy Gentner as the next leader. He's a bit like a left-wing version of Ralph Klein in that he understands how the average person thinks about politics.

      Will the NDP take out its leader in time for the 2013 election? Only if someone gets the process underway this year.

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

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      Jul 10, 2010 at 1:51pm

      Not Jenny Kwan. Anybody but.


      Jul 10, 2010 at 1:54pm

      BC citizens, cringe at the name Liberal. Good grief, how many Liberal ministers have been, under investigation now? BC is the most corrupt province in Canada. It is said, Campbell is actually a Conservative, flying under a Liberal flag. We know, Harper and Campbell, have a very close relationship. It has been mentioned, if Campbell fails, Harper would bring him to the east, perhaps as the, ambassador for China. Any of Campbell's ministers won't be trusted, even under a new leader. BC is in utter financial ruin, citizens, are taxed to death. Harry Neufeld, had to make a decision, by law. He had to turn down Hansen's request, to send out brochures regarding the HST. Neufeld, was then told, he would not be reappointed, how vile is that? We are sick to death, by this low life party. The lies, deceit, and cheating to win, revolted everyone.

      Greg Klein

      Jul 10, 2010 at 2:21pm

      You don’t think Christy Clark would go after the job? I thought it was a rivalry with Campbell that caused her demotion to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, which in turn sparked her resignation in 2004.
      She’s been out of the legislature so long she can say she’s untainted by BC Rail, the HST, etc. But she probably still has friends in the party. Her social views would probably steal votes from the NDP. She’s a rich white woman, so the media might go ga-ga over her just like they did for Carole Taylor.
      Don’t know if her husband, Mark Marissen, would be an asset or a liability, though.

      Charlie Smith

      Jul 10, 2010 at 2:37pm

      Hi Greg,
      I didn't include Christy Clark because I think she likes her current job as a talk-show host more than she would like being premier. Right now, most of the people who listen to her like her, whereas when she was in politics, many people disliked her. She also suffered a dismal defeat when she sought the NPA mayoral nomination in 2005. This might have turned her off politics because she hasn't returned since then.


      Jul 10, 2010 at 4:00pm

      I have a feeling its not just the liberal party's leader which will be dead next election, but any MLA who does not speak out against the HST and pressure to get it removed.

      Having said that I will never vote for the NDP. Here is hoping to a third partying coming.

      Norm Farrell

      Jul 10, 2010 at 4:07pm

      I'm not taking a position in favor or against Carole James but Charley, how can you ignore NDP numbers in the last election that were the highest in modern history and are even higher now, substantially above levels reached by Harcourt or Clark. Getting rid of James might be like a nursing cub killing off the mother bear. Sure the opposition is involved in self destruction but she played the cards correctly. Only fools see her as a radical leftist alternative. She needs to stay focused on ethical shortcomings of Liberals and the enrichment of a small class while good jobs for regular people dissolve into low-paid part time service positions.

      I've been angry over the issues of careless promises being made with no intention of following them later. Liberals rely on the groBe Luge as considered strategy and the 25% portion of idiot voters keeps buying in. James seems careful to avoid promises that would make short term sense politically but be near impossible to implement. Example: carbon tax and HST which she opposed but does not promise to discard. She keeps options open, which is the sensible path. Maybe she believes that when she makes a promise, she intends to keep it.

      Gordon Campbell, Hansen, Falcon and other old style politicos have no difficulty saying anything whether they believe it to be true or not. I know too little about Carole Taylor but I admired her husband Art Phillips. It was he who kept me in the Liberal Party in the sixties but that was in the day when party members interacted with the big guys and participated in grass roots examination of party policies. Now, even the MLAs don't have that privilege, as demonstrated by caucus learning about HST hours before it was announced to the public.

      BTW, I once was a Liberal but I have reformed.


      Jul 10, 2010 at 10:32pm

      What we need to do is modernize the voting and petition signing to be able to be done online. IMO this would get with the times and attract more voters. People can vote from their iphones, and in a matter of days we can get the results that it took 1000s of man hours to get with the old school HS petition.

      In the end its about getting the opinion of as many voters as possible right?

      Just saying.

      Norm's Fool

      Jul 10, 2010 at 11:24pm

      Well, call me a complete moron for thinking James is a "radical leftist alternative". I mean why would I think that when she effectively "suspends democrac[ies] until after the next election" while having the leadership abilities of a salad bowl?

      I'm no Liberal voting money grubber, but I couldn't help vote in a party that pushes policies which go directly against our constitutional rights.

      Sorry Norm, but James is not only a radical leftist, she's a total wacko.

      Charlie Smith

      Jul 11, 2010 at 8:37am

      Norm Farrell,
      It's true that the NDP under Carole James outperformed the Mike Harcourt-led and Glen Clark-led NDP in percentage of the popular vote. But in 2009, there was a record low turnout, so the percentage was of a smaller pie. A more dynamic leader would have convinced more people to vote, which might have led to the defeat of the B.C. Liberals in 2009. Carole James is not that popular in the suburbs of Vancouver, which is where elections are won and lost. The NDP shouldn't have lost two seats in Burnaby, given the weakness of its opponents. The NDP lost a majority of seats in Vancouver. With a new leader, it might win Surrey-Tynehead and Surrey-Panorama, as well as North Vancouver-Lonsdale. And why can't the NDP win a seat in Prince George, where Carole James used to live? I don't get that.


      Jul 11, 2010 at 8:40am

      It really doesn't matter who the LIbERalS have as a leader. Whomever it is will continue the class war currently underway since the 70's. If you believe that a new leader of the Communist LIbERalS will change anything, your mistaken. I wonder how the "new" leader of the LIbERalS will justify shipping more jobs to China with the agreement to ship unfinised logs there? I guess they will hop on HEE HAW Harpers band wagon about the 93,000 jobs created. Great if you don't mind working part time at Burger King et el.