Opinion Column

B.C. Liberal leadership contest a 3-ring circus

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Sam Sullivan. (File photo)

Sam Sullivan. (File photo)

“Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town.”

- Comedian George Carlin

The B.C. Liberal leadership three-ring circus has come to town, complete with clowns and a freak show of bizarre and hard to watch policy ideas.

And it doesn’t promise to be the greatest show on earth when many proposed plans are more politically dangerous than a high-wire act without a net.

Bring back the hated harmonized sales tax under a different name. Privatize health care and liquor sales. Create controversial “charter schools” like in the U.S.

These come from Sam Sullivan, the Vancouver-False Creek B.C. Liberal MLA intent on running a scary hard-right campaign.

Then there are freaky ideas from Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness, who won’t run but wants a B.C. Liberal government to build our own Mount Rushmore – but with a humongous pair of cupped hands in prayer carved in stone.

More worrisome for B.C. Liberals, some veteran circus performers are already angry with potential ringmaster Dianne Watts, the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Surrey-White Rock, who launched her leadership campaign Sunday.

“Where was Dianne Watts when we were fighting for our political lives?” asked likely contestant and B.C. Liberal MLA Mike de Jong, who feels Watts did little to help while Christy Clark’s crew blew the election.

And Watts’ campaign strategists won’t inspire confidence with either federal Liberals – or those who like to win: veteran B.C. Liberal and federal Conservative operative Patrick Kinsella and top Tory organizer Norman Stowe.

Kinsella was reputedly responsible for key decisions in Surrey, where cabinet ministers Peter Fassbender and Amrik Virk lost their seats, while Stowe managed Kevin Falcon’s leadership campaign that lost to Christy Clark.

Their influence will encourage support for planned contenders Andrew Wilkinson, the dour Vancouver-Quilchena MLA with federal Liberal support, and Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, once a federal Liberal riding president.

Also announcing soon are MLAs Michael Lee and Mike Bernier.

Insiders see a showdown between Watts and Wilkinson, Conservative versus Liberal, in the circus’s final act – one that may send half the crowd home unhappy.

But as one veteran B.C. Liberal organizer said to me privately: “The elevator has not stopped going down yet for the party. It’s got a few floors left to hit bottom.”

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com. Twitter: @BillTieleman