Prime Time Crime



(Published in the Abbotsford News week of July 12, 2004)


Another Option over NDP or Liberals


John Pifer


Do not be too quick to dismiss the concept of a breakaway group of Liberal MLAs forming its own centrist party, especially as only four of them would be needed to achieve Opposition status.


The most recent person to toss this idea into the mix as we head to a May election was John Ranta, former head of the Union of BC Municipalities and a former Cariboo region mayor, who once sought to be a Liberal MLA himself.


On several occasions in the past two years, as Premier Gordon Campbells popularity sank steadily into the below-whale-droppings level, a number of re-election theories have been floated  from Campbell resigning in favour of a woman, to riding on an improving economy as reason enough for voters to return the Liberals to power.


The new party concept is perhaps the most attractive, especially to those Liberal MLAs who know that they would lose in May if the status remains quo. By having four or five of them step forward as a new entity, there would be funds available under the laws of the BC Legislature, as well as the other perks that come to the official Opposition. For a number of sitting MLAs, not being a Liberal could save them their seats, and give them a better shot at a cushy pension that a second term would bring.


Whether or not there are MLAs with the cojones that such a step would require is quite another thing altogether. A goodly number of them have remained quiet and compliant on the backbench for three years, and have not shown any backbone, even when their own constituents wanted them to oppose some government policies. As for those in Cabinet, there are none who come to mind as having Cassiuss lean and hungry look, nor is there an easily-identifiable Brutus.


Yet the prospect of challenging Caesar has considerable appeal, especially to political junkies such as this scribe; but it is far from being a slam-dunk. The fact that it would send shivers of doubt and fear through the ranks of the New Democrats and their little-known and non-charismatic leader, Carole James, is kind of appealing, too.


Even if such a scenario was to unfold, do not expect Mr. Campbell and the Liberals to make it easy for any new party to get its act together. Although they brought in the new laws regarding fixed election dates, do not forget that the next election must be held by the end of May 2005. That leaves a window of opportunity for the sitting government to call it earlier, if a crisis, real or imagined, exists or is created.


If a new party does emerge from this silly-season speculation, why give it all that lead time to find candidates, attract volunteers and supporters, and prepare for the May vote? Why not pull the plug before that can happen? At the moment, British Columbian voters may vote Liberal or NDP, or choose not to vote as some form of protest. The Green Party will gather some support, but not enough to worry either of the big guys.


A new instant official Opposition would concern both of them  a lot.


Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at






Prime Time Crime current headlines                             Contributing Writers