How Christy Clark's confrontational approach with teachers could tarnish Justin Trudeau

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      Things are looking exceptionally good for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

      According to the website, his party has opened up a large lead over the Conservatives and NDP in a weighted averaging of federal polls.

      In B.C., the weighted average shows the federal Liberals in front with 34.1 percent, compared to 30.2 percent for the Conservatives and 24.4 percent for the NDP.

      As Mark Leiren-Young reported in this week's Straight, Trudeau has deep roots in B.C. He's probably looking forward to electing many new Liberal MPs from B.C. in the 2015 election.

      If the Liberals are going to form a majority government, they will have to elect members on the North Shore, in Richmond, Vancouver South, Vancouver Granville, and a couple of the new Surrey ridings, not to mention Victoria and possibly in the B.C. Interior.

      Seasoned political observers know that the B.C. Liberals are a coalition of federal Liberals and federal Conservatives.

      But the Liberal label is, nonetheless, a brand. And when three premiers—Gordon Campbell, Dalton McGuinty, and Jean Charest—damaged that brand, it had a negative repercussions on federal Liberals in the 2008 and 2011 elections.

      Campbell, McGuinty, and Charest were not primarily responsible for the devastating defeats of the federal Liberals under Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. But the provincial Liberal parties' scandals reinforced suspicions about Liberals in general that they don't always pass ethical smell tests. This can have a corrosive effect on a national party.

      Teachers dispute reinforces perceptions

      Nowadays, B.C. premier Christy Clark has taken an exceptionally hardline stance against B.C. teachers.

      The employers' negotiator appeared to offer nothing at a recent failed attempt at mediation. It's no wonder the public schools are closed.

      Clark, leader of the B.C. Liberals, is being suspected in some quarters of harbouring a secret agenda to destabilize public education to clear the way for a voucher system and further privatization.

      Her education minister, Peter Fassbender, sounds almost gleeful when he tells the media that the government won't legislate an end to the strike.

      Meanwhile, federal Liberals are going to need the support of softer progressives, including many teachers, if they're going to boot Stephen Harper out of 24 Sussex Drive in 2015. The next federal election could be won or lost in B.C.

      Everyone knows that Clark's ex-husband and political fixer, Mark Marissen, is deeply associated with the federal Liberals.

      The same can be said for Clark's former deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad, who was one of her closest friends.

      Clark herself once worked for former federal Liberal cabinet minister Doug Young in the 1990s.

      It's not too much of a stretch to say that Liberals, both federal and provincial, support the premier's uncompromising stance.

      There's an old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The reverse is that the friend of my enemy is my enemy.

      The teachers' enemy right now is Premier Clark. Trudeau can rightly be seen as a friend of Clark, given their similar political pedigrees and similar backers.

      And in B.C. right now, the word "Liberal" is increasingly associated with "anti-teacher".

      NDP could capitalize on this

      That can only be good news for federal New Democrats in B.C.

      It will become even more so if the court of public opinion concludes that the B.C. Liberal premier and her cronies wanted a teachers strike to try to bust the union.

      A B.C. Supreme Court judge has already ruled that the Clark government tried to provoke a strike in the past. The government has appealed and it's not going to look good if B.C.'s highest court echoes that sentiment in its decision.

      If I were Justin Trudeau, a former teacher, I wouldn't be happy about this situation. The federal Liberals always fare better when they snare a higher percentage of women's votes—and there are a lot of female teachers and mothers across B.C. who are ticked off at the B.C. Liberals' take-no-prisoners' stance on this strike.

      But there's not a lot that Trudeau can do about it when the premier is calling the shots.

      If NDP Leader Tom Mulcair weren't so risk-averse, he'd be joining B.C. teachers on the picket lines to highlight his support for public education. It would create a bit of distance between him and Trudeau and remind voters what New Democrats stand for.



      Buddy Green

      Sep 3, 2014 at 3:37pm

      "Seasoned observers"? Anybody but those with their heads in the sand know that the B.C. Liberals have little resemblance to the federal Liberals.

      The B.C. Liberals = Conservative. No debate.

      Charlie Smith

      Sep 3, 2014 at 4:25pm

      I knew that commenters would try to distance the B.C. Liberals from the federal Liberals. But I'm writing about public perceptions about party brands. If "Liberal" becomes a dirty word in B.C. thanks to the teachers strike, it doesn't matter what the ideological disposition of the premier is. If Justin Trudeau loses government by two or three seats that could have been won in B.C., people may look back on the teachers strike as one of many factors responsible.

      Charlie Smith

      Buddy Green

      Sep 3, 2014 at 5:37pm

      Party brand means nothing for those paying the least bit of attention to politics when it comes to B.C. Liberals and Federal Liberals.

      The B.C. Liberals being a right-wing political party is very well established in B.C. They've been in power for the last 10+ years, for goodness sakes.


      Sep 4, 2014 at 5:37am

      The BC Liberals ARE the Conservative Party in BC - remember Christy Clark loves to make goo goo eyes at Harper.


      Sep 4, 2014 at 8:03am

      Well; BRAND is the operative word. I know that federal and provincial LIBERALS are not the same thing: but "IM SUSPICIOUS of ALL LIBERALS now. " Why? Not so hard to figure that one out when you see what the Liberals are doing in BC. THEY used the BRAND to get votes from people who believed they were Liberals and Liberal 'values'( check the Liberal web sites for those). Instead we got a fascist in power who won't even respect Charter Rights. There's a saying here in BC now: " In BC you have to fight for your charter rights". What other government has had 9 United Nations directives aimed at it for violations of workers rights? Only in BC . Liberal? I hate the word now. I used to vote Liberal. NDP now for sure.

      Let's be honest

      Sep 4, 2014 at 8:09am

      The only people that think the Liberals should roll over and write an unconditional billion dollar cheque to the BCTF are voting NDP regardless. If anything capitulating to the obscene demands of the BCTF would push people to the Conservatives. The BCTF is a political organization and a war against them is a no lose situation for any government not named the NDP.

      Pat Crowe

      Sep 4, 2014 at 10:15am

      Charlie you give the swing voters to much credit for awareness of the party platform.
      As displayed by our last provincial election the pretty face and empty promises have it in the bag.
      "We are going to grow the economy." "Families first."
      Oh gush, did you hear what she said? That's who I'm voting for! Now put the t.v. back on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, please.
      House frau's to the polling station. They know who the prettiest candidate is. Policy? What's that?!


      Sep 4, 2014 at 10:38am

      You're talking about more than brands, Charlie, with silly statements like this: "It's not too much of a stretch to say that Liberals, both federal and provincial, support the premier's uncompromising stance."

      That's a HUGE stretch. To suggest Trudeau would follow an approach like Christy is just ridiculous. The federal Liberals consultative approach and positions on social programs are completely different from Christy's current right-wing backers.


      Sep 4, 2014 at 10:51am

      In Chuck's world, federal voters in 2015 will hold a teachers' strike in BC against Trudeau simply because of the word Liberal?

      Well better hide the fact that Tom Mulcair was a Liberal and former Cabinet Minister in Jean Charest 'Also Often' Elected Liberal government so there aren't any OTHER "reinforced suspicions about Liberals in general" that somehow magically influences public perception when there is a provincial issue of importance in Chuck's World.


      Sep 4, 2014 at 11:37am

      Everybody knows the BC Liberal Party is the Conservative Party in a very poor disguise.