Today, three emails from the B.C. NDP arrived in my in-box.
They suggest that the party plans to use MLAs in battleground constituencies to attack the B.C. Liberals over ethical issues while making the leader, John Horgan, look like the guy who's going to offer solutions.
The first email came from Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby.
It was to announce that on Tuesday (March 21), he will make an English-language version of Quebec's Charbonneau inquiry report available. It documented widespread corruption in the awarding of government contracts in La Belle Province.
The local release of the translated report will coincide with a public lecture on this topic at UBC's Peter A. Allard School of Law.
“B.C. is not immune to corruption or collusion in the issuing of provincial contracts, and yet we act that way,” Eby declared in the news release. “I was at an anti-corruption forum where a representative from B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation suggested that B.C. was protected from collusion because we always take the lowest bid."
He noted that the Charbonneau inquiry "exposed construction firms who would take turns submitting the ‘lowest’ bid for a project in order to rig the system, and who used straw donors to funnel money to supportive politicians". Then Eby suggested that B.C. had something to learn from this.
It comes as the RCMP is investigating indirect political contributions through so-called straw donors.
The next email from the NDP came less than an hour-and-a-half later to announce a new ad targeting the B.C. Liberals.
The NDP MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, Selina Robinson, is quoted saying that Premier Christy Clark "secretly cashed in with a $300,000 second salary from her huge corporate donors". (News reports put the annual salary from the B.C. Liberals at $50,000 in addition to her $193,000 taxpayer-funded salary as premier and an MLA.)
The email also claims that "a criminal investigation into shady fundraising practices isn't stopping her from protecting the corporations that made her $300,000 richer". Ouch!
The third email revealed that B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan will be in Surrey with two candidates on Monday (March 20) to anounce a plan to address gang violence.
It's a common political tactic. Use the lieutenants as attack dogs and make the leader look like a reasonable statesman whom voters can be comfortable with as premier.
It worked for a former B.C. NDP leader, Mike Harcourt. His snarling pit bulls during his successful 1991 campaign were two MLAs named Moe Sihota and Glen Clark.
Another former opposition leader, Gordon Campbell, relied on one of his lieutenants, Gary Collins, to rain corruption allegations on the NDP government of the late 1990s.
The genesis of this strategy goes back to Michael Deaver, who was a key adviser to former U.S. president Ronald Reagan.
Deaver always recommended protecting the general (i.e. the president) from trouble, so Reagan would only be trotted out in front of the cameras for good-news announcements.
Deaver knew that it's much harder to replace a general than a lieutenant. Therefore, he pushed lower-ranking officials, i.e. the lieutenants, to be the spokespeople for anything unpleasant.
Therefore, we shouldn't be too surprised that Eby and Robinson, two of the NDP's most adept users of social media, are front and centre when the party wants to mention the B.C. Liberals' ethical shortcomings.
Horgan won't want to get his hands dirty in this area, but he'll certainly be happy if media outlets help make corruption a campaign issue.