Prime Time Crime
(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Mar. 15, 2004)
Time for Gordo to look for exit
By John Pifer
More than 14 months ago, when B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell was charged (and later convicted) of drunk driving whilst holidaying in Hawaii, many political observers, including this scribe, predicted that he would not survive to lead the B.C. Liberals into the May 2005 election.
That assessment appeared to be premature and inaccurate through the past year; but now, with the latest public-opinion-poll results, even diehard Liberal cheerleaders are reconsidering their pro-Gordo position.
An Ipsos-Reid poll this week showed that two of three British Columbians believe that Mr. Campbell is doing a poor job, and amazingly, the New Democratic Party has risen to heights not seen since 1996, passing the Liberals by a 42-to-39 per cent margin. Given the fact that less than a year ago, the socialist party was at 28%, and that it was decimated in the 2001 election after a decade of scandal, corruption and incompetence as a government, the “turnaround” is amazing indeed.
The latest poll, therefore, must be viewed as more of an anti-Liberal, and especially anti-Campbell, response, rather than a pro-NDP vote. In fact, the polling firm calculates that only 40% of the NDP support is firmly pro-New Democrats, but many people feel they have only one other choice if they want to dump on the Liberals.
Mr. Campbell‘s stubborn style and the ineptitude in which his government has handled key issues and policy decisions are easy targets for dissent, and his departure from the scene after 11 years as Liberal leader would be certain to revise the numbers upward for the Grits, or at least to stem the blood-letting.
Do not be surprised if calls for a leadership review are next, followed by the stubborn policy-wonk Premier reading the writing on the walls and stepping aside – or being pushed overboard -- to give the party a chance to be a true contender come the election 14 months hence.
Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Campbell is seen by many voters, quite simply, as a liar – whether it is over the sale of B.C. Rail, or the litany of broken promises or flip=flops over privatizing the Coquihalla Highway or the fire sale of those notorious “fast” ferries. His credibility is shot, and quite simply cannot be, and will not be restored.
The Premier’s micro-managing style, the concentration of power within his office for un-elected political appointees, and his lack of personality all contribute to that unpopularity, and even the movers and shakers within the Liberal Party are concerned, and are looking for a way out.
The best way out would be to have Mr. Campbell out, to be replaced by a friendlier face, by a leader who appears to have some compassion for those less fortunate, and one who can restore some credibility for the party among women, in particular, and socially-concerned citizens in general.
There is time to affect such change, time to remind the voters of the hell that the NDP brought to B.C. for 10 years, and time to put a fresh face on what B.C. Liberals are all about. Whether the party has the fortitude to do that appears doubtful, and any circle-the-wagons approach to rally around their beleaguered leader will mean the only face that voters will remember will be the one on those mugshots of Our Gordo in the Hawaiian drunk tank.
Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.