Martyn Brown: Yikes! It's ugly inside the B.C. Liberals' collapsing Big Top

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      Big Tents are great for sick parties, circuses, and religious revivals.

      Step inside Dr. Wilkinson’s unbelievably freakish B.C. Liberal party, a circus like no other that simultaneously beckons for its own survival-revival.

      Enter at your own risk and prepare to be shocked, amazed and terrified of all that’s untamed and unholy.

      If you haven’t been following the B.C. election or live outside our province, here’s a recap of the week that was as of early this morning (October 17).

      Yesterday, yet another B.C. Liberal candidate’s wild ramblings were revealed.

      Turns out, New Westminster Liberal candidate Lorraine Brett is a huge fan of famed Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. She, who has alienated so many with her opinions about “new trans activism.”

      Yikes! It’s getting ugly inside the B.C. Liberals’ collapsing Big Top.

      Brett tried to undo the damage her earlier tweet in response to Rowling’s offensive views. This is her offering her “unequivocal” support to the LGBTQ community on behalf of her party that has done so much to dump on its parade:

      Who knows what other strange creatures lurk in the wings, waiting for their time in the spotlight, to astonish us all.

      Keep your eyes on that mad man with the limp whip. The one with the Big L on his forehead.

      He’s the guy getting eaten alive by his dancing bears; the hopelessly inept Ringmaster of his own demise, now pleading for calm and trust, as the obvious elephant on his far right is on a rampage.

      Watch out! That unmangeable beast has broken loose. The Liberal tigers are unhinged and on a tear. And the party’s frantic monkeys have all run amok.

      Come back, oh, ye of little faith, they scream. All is not lost.

      Don’t look now, but there’s also a revival going on inside that chaotic big tent. 

      It’s happening even as the party faithful are fleeing for the exits in fear and disgust of the pandemonium unfolding all around them.

      Let’s take a peek, shall we?

      My, oh my, where to start?

      I could go back to the beginning of Wilkinson’s disastrous tenure as leader.

      Back to 2018, when he put us all on notice that he saw it as his highest mission to make Horgan’s “skin crawl.” He was so good at that job, he makes all voters’ flesh creep every time he moves his lips.

      Or, I could jump forward a couple of years through his unremarkable stint as the Official Opposition leader, to his decision to reward Laurie Throness with a B.C. Liberal nomination in Chilliwack-Kent.

      He did that in spite of that MLA’s anti-child care and anti-SOGI stances; and also, in defiance of Wilkinson’s edict not to advertise in the publication Throness supports that promotes conversion therapy.

      Throness was also the climate denier who said this in 2016: “I remain skeptical, about human-caused global warming.”

      Yup, that’s our guy, the entire B.C. Liberal caucus effectively applauded, in never coming close to banishing him from their fundamentalist conservative tent for all his past musings.

      Laurie Throness and Andrew Wilkinson in happier times.
      Laurie Throness Facebook

      But let’s instead start with yesterday’s news from earlier this week.

      Specifically, the B.C. Liberals’ worst caucus clown, Jane Thornthwaite, the Liberals’ incumbent candidate for North Vancouver-Seymour.

      She’s still on Andrew’s team and not going anywhere.

      As I dare say everyone in B.C. now knows, she caused quite a stir with her pathetic stab at humour in a Zoom call with other Liberals that was supposed to be a retirement “roast” for 87-year-old Ralph Sultan, the outgoing MLA for West Vancouver–Capilano.

      Wilkinson finally felt obliged to toss her to the viper pit a few days ago, in trying to distract from his own complicity in laughing at her despicable attack on the NDP’s Bowinn Ma (North Vancouver–Lonsdale). 

      “Bowinn is a very pretty lady, she knows she’s got it, and she knows how to get Ralph going,” Thornthwaite joked, to laughs and chuckles from some of the eight other Liberals on the call—one of whom was the Liberal leader himself.

      She then went on to recall an event where Sultan and Ma were “stuck on the couch together—very, very close together—for almost the entire time.”

      “Yes, Ralph. You remember that. We were supposed to be networking and all this—but Bowinn knows how to get you. She knows how to get you.

      “Ralph would be sitting on one couch, say, the middle of the couch and Bowinn would be right up next to him, cuddling, cuddling, cuddling—a little cleavage there—and Ralph would be enthralled with her,” Thornthwaite “joked” to her chortling colleagues. 

      Racialized, sexualized ageism. Why, what could be funnier? 

      She and Wilkinson both belatedly apologized for that performance, after first trying to brush the social media criticism aside without the slightest hint of remorse.

      “As her remarks proceeded, many of us were increasingly embarrassed to the point of being appalled,” Wilkinson finally explained. “It was abundantly clear by the end of the roast that she made a bit of a fool of herself.”

      So “abundantly clear” he just had to laugh. 

      No worries, it only took him a couple of days to face the media in apologizing for that fiasco, after releasing his party platform on the morning of the leaders’ debate that he was destined to lose, no less.

      Yup, that was the Liberal leader, not making just a bit of a fool of himself. 

      He’s proven himself to be quite proficient in that respect.

      Witness his refusal to condemn his Langley East candidate Margaret Kunst for voting against a rainbow crosswalk proposed as a signature tribute to inclusion, pride, and tolerance in her community.

      Instead, Wilkinson set out to set us straight with these words: “To be perfectly clear, I have gay members of my family. I have lesbian members in my family. I love them, I respect them.” 

      Good to know he’s so loving, “tolerant”, and inclusive. No need for him to even denounce her actions, let alone remove her from his party ticket.

      Surely that revelation about Wilkinson’s feelings about his family should suffice to reinforce our confidence in him, as he reinforced his confidence in Kunst and Throness. 

      Evidently, like Thornthwaite, those two are both his type of proud team players. Or at least Throness was, until he assumed centre stage in the Liberals’ 2020 campaign circus.

      Like the Good Book says, false “pride goeth before destruction”. And Throness’s fall from grace was truly one of Biblical proportions. 

      As most British Columbians now know, he suggested that publicly-funded contraception smacks of “the old eugenics thing” and contains “a whiff” of “an odour that I don't like. And so, I don't really support what the NDP is doing there.”

      On this Zoom video, Laurie Throness sealed his fate in becoming an ex-B.C. Liberal candidate.

      Oh, but the Ringmaster was having none of that. 

      He now vows to support the NDP’s and Greens’ promises to provide free contraception, even though that commitment was nowhere to be found in the B.C. Liberals’ platform.

      Yet again, Wilkinson’s first response was hardly emphatic.  

      Even hours later, after he released his statement “accepting” Throness’s kind “offer to resign as the candidate for Chilliwack-Kent”, it seemed clear that the B.C. Liberal leader had not been sufficiently offended to fire his ass with extreme prejudice.

      It took a parade of loose Liberal lions inside to lead their leader and force his shaky hand in meekly accepting Throness’s offer to step aside as the party’s candidate. 

      Conveniently, though, his name and party affiliation will remain on the ballots, over 680,00 of which have already been mailed out to B.C. voters. 

      Whether Throness ultimately gets elected and remains out in the cold is an open question. Though I’m guessing he will prevail in his bid and will be welcomed back to the Liberal fold after doing his penance.

      And so began the Liberals’ survival-revival in its worst week from hell in modern memory.

      That episode sent the party soul-searching in trying to convince itself and us alike that it is not in fact all that it appears to be under Wilkinson’s watch. 

      It also effectively kicked off the next Liberal leadership contest that is sure to follow in the wake of Wilkinson’s painful death spiral.

      The likely frontrunner in that enterprise is the ex-Global TV star Liberal performer, Jas Johal (Richmond-Queensborough). Had he been leading this campaign, it would have been much more competitive, what with so many legislative gallery journalists eating out of his capable hands.

      As he did in response to the Thornthwaite fiasco, Johal leapt to the party’s rescue in condemning his caucus colleague with a tweet that even his leader could ill afford to ignore.

      And … they’re off and running, I immediately thought. 

      Todd Stone (Kamloops-South Thompson), Matt Pitcairn (Richmond-Steveston), and “all that Jas".

      All in all, it was quite the way to divert attention from Thursday’s CKNW leaders’ debate—a racous affair that stood in stark contrast to Tuesday’s televised debate. 

      Wilkinson had prayed it would change the election script in his favour, after he so convincingly bombed out in the TV debate. 

      Instead, his own weak leadership was once again the most salient issue. The Throness scandal virtually buried the radio debate coverage and gave Premier Horgan the free pass that the Liberals have repeatedly handed him throughout this campaign. 

      No one put the case for replacing Wilkinson as leader more forcefully than the B.C. Liberals’ membership chair, Nicole Paul.

      This thread said it all—and then some.

      Let no one ever accuse Paul of not having a sense of humour in her conviction. Here’s what she said today in a follow-up tweet:

      On with the survival-revival, in other words. 

      On with the search for another leader to rekindle that old-time Liberal religion that went out the door long ago, along with the party’s moral compass. 

      They lost that loving feeling as they lost their small-l liberalism that successive leaders so weakly neglected in deference to the Big Tent party’s far-right conservative faction.

      Indeed, the party of Paul is one very sick wingding.

      “Restore confidence” the Liberals’ election advertising reads in big, bold type.   

      Can you imagine a worse campaign slogan for Andrew Wilkinson’s B.C. Liberals? I can’t.

      Particularly, because it is mostly confidence in his leadership that is sorely lacking, now more than ever. 

      With John Horgan entering this campaign holding a 62 percent approval rating, that slogan was always a carny’s cry, ordained to ring hollow.

      What was Wilkinson thinking in choosing that as his campaign tag line? 

      To make it even worse, he chose to amplify it with a second phrase, “Rebuild B.C.”  

      As if anyone in their right mind believes it is somehow our province that is broken, rather than the B.C. Liberal party.

      As the Globe and Mail’s Justine Hunter has just reported, B.C.’s resource economy is actually booming in the wake of COVID. 

      The Business Council of B.C. found that “Manufacturing, forestry, mining, oil and gas, and agriculture have regained all of the jobs lost since February—and then some.”  

      Yes, we are facing a global pandemic that has taken a terrible toll on businesses and economic activity everywhere.

      But prior to the COVID crisis, we had the strongest economy in the country, a fact that hasn’t changed even in the face of all we have endured.

      We still have the strongest fiscal position of any province and the most progressive social policy record of any province in recent years in Canada.

      The NDP’s Clean BC climate plan is certainly far from perfect, but it’s a far cry from what Wilkinson’s party did when he was in Christy Clark cabinet. It’s light years more progressive than how he’d cope with climate change. 

      Our health-care and education systems are on the mend because of the NDP’s efforts to fix the problems their predecessors created or ignored.

      The ICBC “dumpster fire” was the Liberals’ doing. It was them who made B.C. the money laundering capital of North America.

      “Restore confidence. Rebuild B.C.”?

      Are you out of your freakin’ mind, Andrew?

      That has been the singular story of the last three-and-a-half years under the GreeNDP alliance. Thanks mostly to John Horgan’s strong leadership in repairing the damage done by Wilkinson’s party when it ruled the roost.

      “Confidence” is now the Horgan government’s winning claim to fame.

      That much is clear from the latest Angus Reid opinion poll.

      The NDP is now leading the Liberals by 16 points among decided voters, with Horgan’s team at 49 percent, Wilkinson’s wounded warriors at 33 percent, and Sonia Furstenau’s B.C. Greens at 14 percent.

      If current trends continue, Horgan’s NDP will be re-elected with the strongest vote of confidence of any government since 1951, save and except former B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell’s record-breaking victory in 2001.

      The NDP’s lead in seat-rich Metro Vancouver is massive and growing at 60 percent versus 24 percent for the Liberals.

      The NDP has a 28-point lead over the Liberals among voters age 55-plus, with 56 percent support for Horgan’s party as compared to 28 percent for Wilkinson’s sorry lot.  

      That disparity is even higher among voters age 35 to 54. Some 58 percent in that age cohort supprt the NDP, versus a mere 23 percent for the B.C. Liberals.

      The NDP now leads the Liberals by 15 percent among all voters age 55 or older, with 50 percent supporting Horgan’s team versus the 35 percent whom Wilkinson hasn’t yet alienated. 

      That older voter group is usually the Liberals’ “ace in the hole”, given their proportionately higher voter turnout numbers.


      Some 54 percent of those surveyed find John Horgan either “very or quite appealing”—a figure that rises to 61 percent in Metro Vancouver and 62 percent on Vancouver Island. 

      In contrast, some 69 percent of British Columbians said Wilkinson is either “not very or not at all appealing”. And that vote of non-confidence in him rises to 72 percent in Metro Vancouver and 75 percent on the Island/North Coast.

      Wilkinson’s “unappealing” score is an astounding 77 percent among female voters age 55-plus.   

      Some 34 percent of voters’ say their opinion of Wilkinson has worsened in this campaign. That’s over twice the 15 percent of those surveyed who say it has improved.  

      Confidence? Most polls suggest the NDP leads the Liberals in voters’ assessment of who is best to manage virtually every issue. 

      Over twice as many people feel that Horgan is best to manage the COVID crisis than Wilkinson, and the NDP leader has massive double-digit leads over his Liberal counterpart on other issues like health care, education, and climate action. 

      All of those findings now point to a 96.7 per cent probability of an NDP win.

      It stands to result in the largest NDP majority government in B.C. history. 

      So, yes, the B.C. Liberals’ Big Top is in royal tatters.  

      You don’t need to look too hard under the flaps to see what’s going on.

      It is, at once, a sick party, a runaway circus, and a survival-revival-in-motion that is already fixated on finding a new faith healer to salvage whatever remains of its former identity and glory. 

      If anything, Wilkinson’s tumultuous time as party Ringmaster has made its own best argument for mistrusting his B.C. Liberal Big Tent.

      And also, for voting to elect the other candidates who are running in this election to help lead B.C. away from all that his now thoroughly discredited party so riotously represents.

      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