Media in Vancouver are scrambling, as an emergency meeting has been called of the British Columbia cabinet for 4 p.m. on March 3 — 71 days before the scheduled May 14 provincial election. All polls point to an NDP cakewalk. But what happens if Christy Clark suddenly becomes the ex-premier?
The natural gas-themed throne speech and allegedly balanced budget were failures. The NDP’s bombshell Feb. 27 revelation of the Multicultural Outreach Strategy/Quick Wins memo (on Pink Shirt Day, no less) may have been the tipping point. The March 1 push/jump of Clark’s deputy chief of staff and longtime gal-pal Kim Haakstad leaves Clark exposed, but not be sufficient to satisfy skeptical Liberals.
That the Liberals hatched a strategy to gain ethnic votes is not the primary trouble. It’s the opportunistic, exploitive strategies and the methods, namely using government time to secretly plan party strategy. It is against government rules to use government resources for political campaigning.
The conference call on Jan. 11, 2012, during government business hours, that is mentioned in Pamela Martin’s agenda, is crucial new evidence that I revealed on March 1
. The meeting was referenced in the Jan. 10, 2012 Haakstad email that was sent from her private address to the private addresses of others, to prevent the information from being disclosed under Freedom of Information.
Betcha didn’t expect B.C. could have a new premier before Roman Catholic cardinals elect a new pope, to replace the retired Benedict XVI. But it could happen, though don’t look for white smoke to be emanating from the seventh floor of Canada Place’s World Trade Centre on Sunday. Those in cabinet are there because Clark tapped them on the shoulder. She giveth and she can also taketh away. Some of them are like trained seals. They’ll walk out of the meeting with smiles on their faces, claiming they’re behind their leader 100% (even if they don’t really mean it).
Caucus could be a very different story. There are several MLAs who have already announced they won’t run again. Comfortable people, counting the days, with nothing much to lose. They could gang up and issue a shape up or ship out ultimatum. The “or else” part of the equation might involve resignations from caucus to sit as independents and voting with the other independents and the NDP on a non-confidence motion to force the intervention of Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon. The Liberals have 45 seats, the NDP 36 and there are four independents. An early election could be triggered by as few as three Liberals disobeying or leaving caucus.
In the April 4, 1991 Vancouver Sun, esteemed columnist Vaughn Palmer described the “historic meeting of the Social Credit caucus” that began at 2 p.m. in the cabinet room of the Legislature with Vander Zalm’s resignation. Vander Zalm jumped instead of being pushed.
“Caucus chairman Nick Loenen and his assistant, caucus researcher Martin Brown, had consulted constitutional experts like Edward McWhinney, Ron Cheffins and John Saywell. There were also discreet inquiries to Michael Roberts, private secretary to Lt.-Gov David Lam. The result of these deliberations was a series of resolutions aimed at fielding every eventuality, from a caucus revolt to what actually happened, an orderly succession from one premier to the next.”
Vander Zalm left for a press conference and caucus held an election for a new leader. Rita Johnston, the Deputy Premier and Transportation Minister,
beat Russ Fraser 21-17 on the fourth ballot before 4:30 p.m. Loenen, with the backing of caucus and Social Credit party executive, visited Government House and Lam agreed to the switch. Johnston was sworn-in as the 28th premier and first woman in the job at 6 p.m.
“The outcome was historic for other reasons. For the first time since 1927, when J.D. Maclean succeeded John Oliver, a government nearing the end of its term had changed premiers on the advice of the party caucus. But Socreds had better hope history does not repeat itself. Premier MacLean failed to capture the imagination of the voters, and he went down to defeat in the next general election.”
The Socred board of directors decided on April 3, 1991 that the party would hold a leadership convention on July 18-20, 1991. Johnston won on the second ballot, but the NDP won the Oct. 17, 1991 election with a 51-seat majority. The Socreds collapsed from 47 to 7, but the Liberals, under Gordon Wilson, went from 0 to 17.
If Today’s BC Liberals are to switch their leader, it must be incredibly swift and there may be no time to organize a leadership convention. It may have to rely on an electronic vote.
“Whenever a Leader is to be chosen for the Party, the Party must conduct a province-wide vote (which is referred to in this Constitution as a “Leadership Vote”) and, in connection with that vote, may hold a convention (which is referred to in this Constitution as a “Leadership Convention”).”
Party rules say the president must call a meeting of the party executive within 28 days after the written resignation of the leader or a request of the leadership for a leadership vote. A date must be set for the leadership vote within six months of the party executive’s meeting.
The election, fixed by law, is May 14. A delay would require a vote of the Legislature and consultation with Guichon. The NDP would not be amused.
Replacement of Clark could spoil Dix’s best-made plans. Could the Liberals, under a new leader (a leader who is respected and supported by caucus), save their party at the 11th hour and score the most unlikely, miraculous comeback in Canadian political history? Or is this organization (rocked by allegations of abuse of power and corruption) just too far gone to even save itself?
Alex Tsakumis has reported Mounties are taking a close look at the Quick Wins scandal, but the RCMP is predictably in denial mode.
“We are aware of the comments on the political blog which prompted this speculation but we are not investigating any such complaint, nor would we speculate on what the complaint would even be…” said Sgt. Rob Vermeulen, RCMP E Division spokesman.
What cannot be overlooked is the importance of the resignation of several riding executives in Surrey who are angry that certain candidates have been imposed by party headquarters instead of voted democratically by local party members. James Plett went public with his displeasure, going so far as to say that his former party is “being run by crooks.”