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British Columbia’s whacky politics

Surrey, Vancouver, Jan 05, 2011
Balwant Sanghera

British Columbia’s politics has always been somewhat whacky. Often our politicians are considered rather amusing. Perhaps it is the rain or something else that the rest of Canada looks upon the Lotusland with a great deal of interest. Maybe it has something to do with our relatively wet and warm weather, we often give Rest of Canada a rather amusing picture from time to time. The last couple of months have reinforced this view. Politically, the developments in this province during the last two or three months have been nothing but amazing.

After their victory at the polls in 2009, BC Liberals were cruising along nicely. Gordon Campbell was taking full advantage of a very successful Winter Olympics. The economy was doing just fine bucking the trend in the rest of Canada. As usual, BC NDP was trailing the BC Liberals in every poll. Then comes the bombshell. The Harmonized Sales Tax, commonly known as the Hated Sales Tax hits the headlines. During the 2009 election Campbell had stated unequivocally that his government won’t bring in the HST. However, provincial ballots had hardly been counted when Campbell and his finance minister Colin Hansen announced that they have signed an agreement with Ottawa to bring in the HST as of July1,2010. It changed the political environment overnight.

This flip flop by Campbell proved to be godsend to former premier Bill Vander Zalm. BC Liberals’ popularity plummeted to very low numbers. NDP’s numbers started going up. As a matter of fact ,at one point NDP was 21 points ahead of the Liberals and NDP government in the next election was almost a certainty. People began signing the ant HST petitions in droves. The premier’s popularity hit an all time low at nine percent. Despite his best efforts at softening the public with a huge tax cut and promise to hold a referendum on HST in September 2011, ,he had no choice but to resign. What a difference his departure made in public opinion. At the same time, the government in waiting began to shoot itself in the foot.

The Baker’s Dozen, the 13 dissident MLAs of the NDP went mercilessly after their leader Carole James and wanted her head on platter. James did the honourable thing and resigned. NDP’s popularity began to fall like a lead balloon. The 21 point advantage evaporated quickly. The latest polls indicate NDP five or so points behind the BC Liberals. What a strange development! For the first time in BC’s history both main stream parties in BC are furiously engaged in their leadership races at the same time. This will make the first few months of the New Year to be very exciting politically. The Liberals will elect their new leader .on February 26 and the NDP will have a new face on April 17.

The BC Liberal leadership race seems to be between three main contenders so far-Christy Clark, Kevin Falcon and George Abbott. The NDP may have veterans like Peter Julian, Mike Farnworth, Adrian Dix and John Horgan fight it out. It goes to prove that there is never a dull moment in BC politics. In the meantime ,let’s hope that 2011 will be a year of peace and prosperity.



Balwant Sanghera

Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association . He is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada.