Opinion

Please Advise! Will the BC Liberals Go for Star Power Over Experience?

How the leadership race is like baseball with a bit of Hillary vs. Trump thrown in.

By Steve Burgess 26 Sep 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.

Dear Dr. Steve,

The BC Liberal leadership race is getting crowded. Who do you think will come out on top?

Signed,

Oddsmaker

Dear Odd,

There is no doubt about who will come out of this race as the big winner — it’s whoever manages to run off to Fiji with the contents of the BC Liberal Party bank account. With eight candidates looking to get in, a $50,000 entry fee required from each, plus 10 per cent skimmed off the top of all campaign funds raised, this race offers an alternative solution to the political fundraising issues recently addressed by Premier Horgan. The Liberals will make big bucks. Regardless of who wins, the party may well turn this into a major business opportunity, the political equivalent of a vanity publishing business — you pay us 50 Gs and we let you play the role of a real live political leadership candidate.

But as a secondary matter, an actual leader will emerge from this process. With eight candidates expected to join in, the Liberals are just one player short of a full baseball team (we can assume there’s no one in left field). Current and potential candidates include federal Conservative South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts, former Vancouver mayor and current Vancouver False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan, former B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong, ex-cabinet ministers Andrew Wilkinson and Mike Bernier, Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee, ex-transportation minister Todd Stone, and businesswoman Lucy Sager.

Add to that group the names of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, at least metaphorically. As you’ll recall — it’s painful I know but you can do it — the U.S. electoral college system handed the 2016 presidential election to Trump despite Clinton’s nearly three million vote edge in the popular vote. The BC Liberal leadership vote will operate in a similar way. Each of the 87 B.C. ridings will be allotted 100 points toward the result, regardless of the number of party voters in each riding. So if Candidate A (let’s call said candidate Hillary) wins Vancouver-Kensington by 4,000 votes and Candidate B (here designated Candidate Trump) wins Cariboo North by 25 votes, the result is 100 points for each. The winning candidate could thus end up with a significant overall vote deficit. Well, never mind, it all worked out great in the States, am I right?

So who is likely to be the next BC Liberal leader? An interesting sub-contest is former Surrey mayor Watts vs. former Vancouver mayor Sullivan. Sullivan must relish this position. His 2005 run for the NPA Vancouver mayoral nomination pitted him against bright-star candidate Christy Clark. Sullivan pulled off an unexpected victory (followed by an upset win in the general over Jim Green). A star candidate must be like a lucky rabbit’s foot to Sullivan.

Unfortunately for him this race has more than one. As long-time finance minister and runner-up to Clark in the last BC Liberal leadership contest, Mike de Jong will have a powerful claim on voters’ affections. Some observers are saying there’s no clear frontrunner in this race but Watts and de Jong have to be considered the lead horses. Watts has the disadvantage of being a newcomer parachuting into the BC Liberal ranks, while de Jong is a candidate whose dues are fully paid. But that’s rarely the way politics works. Politics is usually more like baseball — it’s not like you put in a few seasons as an outfielder so you can get the chance to pitch. No, the pitchers are a different category altogether. Will de Jong be given a chance to take the mound? As a long-time finance minister it is entirely possible. But Doc Steve is not putting down his precious rent money on de Jong.

Dianne Watts is the closest thing this race has to a political superstar. She may be an outsider — and BC Liberal voters will be reminded of that constantly during the campaign — but my guess is that party members will eventually be swayed by the chance to anoint a genuine glamour candidate. Doc Steve is betting that his little beachfront cottage in Fiji will be secured by putting a fat bet on Watts. But only if his application to be BC Liberal party treasurer falls through.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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