Call me cynical, but MLA Blair Lekstrom’s exit from the BC Liberal caucus seems hardly genuine, possibly part of a carefully planned production that at its conclusion will see Premier Campbell exit government. In my view, he may have scripted his own exit to look as if its an internal, grassroots revolution within the BC Liberal party.
Gordon Campbell may be a terribly arrogant politician, but he is not stupid. He has seen the writing on the wall and knows his days are numbered. He knows that if he manages to hang on to leadership, there will be little left of his party after the next election. He is desperate to avoid that sort of electoral blowout, and if there is one thing he is trying to avoid more than losing his job as party leader and Premier, its to hand the keys of power to the NDP. To that extent, I think he’d orchestrate some phony outrage from within his caucus that would ‘push’ him from office; trigger a leadership convention and hopefully convince voters that with a new leader, the BC Liberals are fit for a fourth term…because a 4th term for the BC Liberals is better than any term of the NDP (or so the spinners would have you believe).
My theory is based on the fact that it took a year for Blair Lekstrom to act on the HST. I’ve lived in Dawson Creek and I know first hand the anger at sales taxes…they want nothing to do with them. There is a healthy movement afoot in the BC Peace River region to leave this province, and have Alberta annex that whole section of our north. Alberta has no sales tax; they have lower income taxes; and its a 30 minute drive from Dawson Creek.
Its not just the north Peace region that feels this way, its border communities that feel this disadvantage on sales tax compared to Alberta and we have little to stop locals from taking that drive across the provincial boundary and pick up a TV, washing machine, or a car – and not pay any provincial sales tax. Enter the HST.
There should have been an immediate threat from all BC Liberal MLA’s that border Alberta to vote down the government and trigger an early election. This was not done – and they knew the political risk at the time. I doubt the government pulled the idea out of a hat AFTER the election, I think there was a plan to drop the HST on BC with a faint hope that anger would fizzle out after a while and life would be ok. But any recorded evidence to suggest this alternative theory conveniently cannot be found…shocking.
Think of how this is going to unfold. Blair Lekstrom resigns from cabinet, probably Olivia Chow (elected 1996) next, than maybe one or two more (that are juicy targets on the recall list) and the pressure will be on for Campbell to resign…more than the pressure already.
And magically, he will announce his retirement from BC Politics and declare a leadership contest open. All of the MLA’s that “resigned” in protest will be welcomed back with open arms, the party will unite behind its new leader and will proclaim itself (again) the best hope to save BC from the “threat of an NDP government”…and win the next election.
In other words, all the drama you are seeing now is in my view, a staged event. Gordon Campbell already has his exit strategy figured out and this is my theory on how it goes. He is prepared to be demonized like he is in order to take the heat off other potential leadership contenders…and it might work.
But the problem is that up until this HST fiasco, Campbell’s grip on the BC Liberal party has been iron fisted. No BC Liberal could stand as a candidate without Campbell’s personal approval. Every person in any sort of elected office within the party is a loyal ally of Gordon Campbell. Every ranking officer of the party is loyal to Gordon Campbell. The entire government and its thinking is a product of the cult of Gordon Campbell…therefore, there is no one free from the corrosive stain of Gordon Campbell. The next leader owes their ascension to power to Gordon Campbell as he enabled their career to blossom.
Worse, opponents of Campbell within the party have already fled the party. They are either sitting the next election out, cut up their membership card and joined the BC Conservatives, support Greens as a protest, or possibly even vote NDP.
All thats left in the BC Liberal party are diehard loyalists of Gordon Campbell, so no one can honestly claim to be a ‘fresh start’. In the next election, BC must exact punitive political punishment on every BC Liberal they can find. If any survive the next election, then Gordon Campbell still wins.