It isn’t going to be easy for the British Columbia’s New Democratic Party to change attitudinal gears in their first weeks behind the steering wheel of the vehicle called governance.
For years they have been back seat drivers – calling, often shouting, critical advice to the driver they have now replaced. Their back-seat advice was always sharply critical; often harshly and seemingly hastily spoken without careful consideration about accuracy.
When driving from the back seat, wordy advice comes easy and can be offered carelessly, but that all changes when the back seat critics take advantage of a stalled election campaign and, aided by three wavering Green hitchhikers, haul the driver from behind the wheel and take over. Words that could once be flung about without care must now be examined, vetted and polished before being declared in public. Denunciation, once proclaimed without hesitation, must now be checked and checked again before being proclaimed and released to media as fact.
Confirmation that old habits die hard was demonstrated a few days ago when newly minted Minister of Jobs Bruce Ralston announced with undisguised pleasure, that Gordon Wilson, hired by the former Liberal government to promote its Liquefied Natural Gas program, had been fired. He gave reasons: Wilson, with payment set at $150,000 a year, had yet to file a single report on his work.
Premier John Horgan was quick to support the dismissal and Ralston’s claim there had been “no reports in months.”
Alas, alack, Mike Smyth – enterprising columnist for The Province newspaper, checked the records. Wilson had filed regular reports with at least one extensive study and most of them were posted on the NDP website and had been since they were requested by the party months ago.
Premier Horgan was quick to apologize, so was Ralston. Horgan’s apology as reported by CBC contained some interesting words: “I’ve known Bruce Ralston for many, many years. He is a man of the highest integrity. If he believes he misspoke, I support that. I offer a similar apology to Mr. Wilson. I hope we can all move on.”
Okay, apology delivered although I’m not sure what “support” for “misspoke” (“to speak inaccurately, inappropriately, or too hastily”) entails. Whatever the inference, the premier suggests we move on. I’m all for that if he’s now asking his cabinet to shake this one off and remember they are now in the driver’s seat and no longer need to be always in ‘Liberal search and destroy’ mode.And let it be noted that an apology delivered is not necessarily an apology accepted.
In September, we shall be presented with a Throne Speech and shortly after that a budget. I can, and do, wish Premier Horgan success in moving beyond the NDP’s tedious negative rhetoric – and earnestly hope the Liberals don’t try to fill the vacuum with an echoing chorus equal to the worst of NDP’s perpetual crocodile tears.
And, I hope above all else that the Throne Speech and Budget bring some immediate benefits. I favour wise long-range planning, but The Book of James (Chapter 4) suggests we shouldn’t make moderate language and carefully stated facts a long term project: “Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow: What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes … Do not boast about arrogant schemes … such boasting is evil … (And) if anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it … it is a sin.”
That’s a few thousand years old advice, but hope, as always, springs eternal, especially as we wait for new direction and a budget from a less than robust government trying to shake off back seat driver habits.