Martyn Brown: Could Dr. Bonnie Henry be B.C.'s next commander-in-chief? In a COVID-crazed heartbeat

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      OK, so there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that Dr. Bonnie Henry would ever abandon her unaccountable post as British Columbia’s globally celebrated chief medical health officer to run for the NDP leadership and thus become B.C.’s next premier.

      I’m not aware if anyone’s asked her yet to specifically rule that out. But if nothing else, maybe this article will at least serve that purpose.

      I shudder to think she might equivocate if any of her cheerleaders in the legislative press corps obliged her to officially put that nightmare scenario to rest, if she hasn’t already.

      Still, the job would probably be hers for the taking if B.C.’s COVID commander were ever lured out of her cozy foxhole to take a stab at politics as her ultimate calling.

      Sure, Henry’s popularity has taken a flesh wound since her early killer-virus days as B.C.’s effervescent “Ours is not to wonder why. Ours is to do or die” general.

      But according to Angus Reid’s poll in March, she was still sitting high on her throne as British Columbia’s COVID Queen.

      Some 68 percent of her subjects still rate her job performance as good or very good, more popular than any of her counterparts east of the Maritimes.

      Anyone vying to be crowned premier would kill for those numbers.

      A Bonnie legend in her own time, Queen Henry now is: shimmering in her own eminence, decked out in her namesake Fluevogs and bestowed with six honorary university degrees.

      Further immortalized in print by her own coauthored testament to her greatness.

      Never mind the unfudged human toll that Queen Henry’s bloody-minded insistence in her own infallibility has inadvertently wished on B.C., as I recently highlighted

      Most British Columbians continue to discount the hard truths that have been so expertly flagged and repeatedly scrutinized by the Straight’s Charlie Smith and Martin Dunphy. [See related stories.]

      War is hell, as they say, here as everywhere, and truth is usually the first victim.

      True enough, Henry has valiantly fought the good fight.

      Typically, with disarming serenity and “might is right” conviction.

      Who are we poor pawns in the broader strategic campaign to question the wisdom of her sometimes imperious edicts, some may have asked themselves? Twitter is certainly ablaze with detractors who feel they have been deadly to some of her ill-fated vassals.

      Indeed, I can’t think of anyone anytime in B.C. history who has been so universally lionized by the mainstream media as this province’s health tsar, so deserving of our supplication, blind faith, and obedience.

      Huzzah! We’ve seen this occasionally true story before and it’s a riot.

      Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well.

      Of this there can be no doubt: Dr. Henry is surely a natural-born politician who the NDP would probably die to follow as their leader, if she had any inclination to assume that mantle.

      Now that would be quite the coronation, no? And too improbable to imagine.

      If winning power is the only name of the game, who better to lead the NDP than the person most responsible for John Horgan’s popularity?

      Who better to be annointed premier by his party faithful than the person arguably most responsible for his massive majority government, by dint of the blessing she offered his opportunistic snap election?

      Such were Henry’s gifts to the NDP in doing her job as she deemed best, politically informed at every turn.

      Political skills? She’s got all of the other prospective would-be NDP leaders beat by a COVID mile.

      Hell, she was effectively B.C.’s de facto premier over the past two-and-a-half years, governing so many facets of our lives as she essentially did.

      And her war-fogged gaslighting caused more than a few journalists to lose their bearings in deference to her unchallenged expert authority.

      Where would the Horgan government be today, one wonders, were it not for its “one question, one follow-up for those who play nice” protocol that was launched and maintained as the COVID rule for phoned-in journalism?

      Years from now, I expect people will look back on this time in B.C. history and shake their heads in amusement, as we do when looking at all those wartime propaganda news reels of yesteryear.

      No one has been the master of their own air-brushed rosy destiny quite like Dr. Henry—a credit to her mastery of the fine art of crisis communication.  

      Anyway, who doesn’t like a war hero in power when hope is on the horizon and it feels like the worst battles are behind us?

      From George Washington to Dwight D. Eisenhower, it was the career path of many U.S. presidents.

      Hell, if a dour, vicious drunk like American Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant could convert his lethal leadership and infamy into a successful bid for the presidency, surely B.C.’s relentlessly sunny, studiously sober and ever savvy COVID warrior-in-chief would be a shoo-in for B.C.’s top political job, if she ever fancied giving it a try.

      As I say, when hell freezes over.

      Rest easy David Eby and anyone else who might hope to become B.C.’s next premier.

      The Good Doctor is likely far too committed to her lifelong vocation and professional passion to ever want to give it up for politics proper.

      Through her fabled experience these past 30 tortuous months, she is now too acutely aware of what the job of premier really entails.

      She knows that the next premier will have a nearly impossible task in fashioning order from chaos across the muddied policy wastelands that now confront B.C. in all its barb-wired horror.

      COVID is only one of those daunting challenges.

      I’m guessing it’s not one that a premier Henry would easily surrender to anyone else to lead as Horgan has done.

      Indeed, if she were premier, it would be interesting to see how malleable she might be in upholding the principle of independent autonomy vested in provincial health officer.

      Could she beat Kevin Falcon’s B.C. Liberals, or whatever they might rebrand themselves whenever B.C. next goes to the polls?

      In a COVID-crazed heartbeat.

      Like generals MacArthurPatton, and Marshall, she would be virtually unstoppable. Falcon’s troops wouldn’t know what hit them.

      But for Queen Henry, that would surely be a Pyrrhic victory.

      If only because it would newly expose her to even more vicious political attacks than she has been forced to endure in her present capacity.

      Plus, it would likely prove that she is someone best suited to be looking through the magnifying glass, rather than the reverse.

      As premier there would be nothing to shield her from the “take-no-prisoners” unwanted political scrutiny that she of all people needs like a dose of long COVID.

      Ah, but you can dream, New Democrats.

      And take solace in all that might have been, consoled by the knowledge that whoever you choose to lead your party and our province, it affords the potential for a new lease on life.

      No matter who next holds B.C.’s top job in government, the polls suggest they will still benefit from Henry’s mythical reign.

      One day, perhaps in the not too distant future, when Eby or another of his cabinet colleagues is sitting in the premier’s office, they can reflect on how lucky they were that she declined today’s wishful thinkers’ draft.

      Who knows, that premier might choose to pay her the ultimate honour of proferring Dr. Henry’s name to the federal government as B.C.’s preferred candidate to succeed the Hon. Janet Austin as Lieutenant Governor when her term expires in 2023?

      Don’t think that could happen? It just did in Queensland, Australia, where its former top medical health officer, Jeannette Young, was recently appointed that state’s governor.

      Say it ain’t so, Joe.

      Or rather, David, Ravi, Selina, Nathan, Josie, Jennifer, Bowinn, or whoever ultimately fills Horgan’s oversized shoes. 

      Let’s also rule out that speculative future appointment while we’re at it—something Dr. Henry could also probably happily volunteer if asked.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at