There’s a new book on the block and it’s worth buying (for under $20!) if you have any interest at all in the way provincial political decisions lead to new benefits or disasters – modest or major – for the people who give governments the money they need to play with.
The authors, BC provincial legislature press gallery reporters Rob Shaw, The Vancouver Sun, and Richard Zussman, Global News, admit “A Matter of Confidence – the inside story of the political battle for BC” captures only “a moment of time” in BC’s political history. While they deal comprehensively with events from 2009 – 2017, they say: “A Matter of Confidence is meant to offer a glimpse into the decisions these governments made, or didn’t make, and the actions of those around the (three) premiers during this time. It is too soon to pass judgment on their contributions to the province or how history will remember them.”
They tell their story well in language that carries the reader from event to event with easy flow; it is a rare political treatise in that it captures individual thinking and action in lively fashion and leaves the reader wanting to read one more chapter before turning the bedside light out.
Once in a while in the excitement of being in a front row seat while dramatic events unfold, develop, explode or fizzle like a damp squib, they hint the happenings are unprecedented, the most exciting times ever in BC history. That isn’t true. For real excitement in the west world, readers – and writers – can do a fact check of Premier Joseph Martin – known as “Fighting Joe – who lasted less than four months in office and departed in genuinely unprecedented style; or take a quick read of half a dozen other Premiers with shady business dealings, one or two with sad morality rules and a few dismantled by party dissidents.
I’m not suggesting Shaw and Zussman should have cluttered their finely tuned page turner with dip-ins to past or worse events; just that they should have left out the few lines where they hint they were watching history being made whereas, with a few minor cast adjustments, they were watching it repeat itself.
One major criticism – this from the time the authors deal briefly with Premier John Horgan’s duties when he worked for Premier Mike Harcourt in the 1990s and was “tasked with keeping a close eye on ambitious cabinet minister Glen Clark. In those days, the NDP’s greatest enemy was itself. Harcourt would be forced out and Glen Clark would later become premier. Clark would keep Horgan around on his staff….”
Two questions: I wonder what “keeping a close eye” on Glen Clark meant; and is there any solid evidence that the NDP’s “greatest enemy in those days” no longer exists?
Getting rid of leaders has been standard political party procedure since before Caesar got the Shakespearean warning “beware the Ides of March” and a short time later told his followers to keep an eye on one “Cassius who has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much: such men are dangerous.” In every country in the world and in every political party where leaders become prime minister or premier elected, there has been at least one potential Cassius. It’s the “enemy” political leaders face when the ambitions of party members replace party loyalties..
On the final pages of their book, the authors quote new Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson responding to a question on the prospect of facing Horgan in the Legislature: His response: “My task is to make sure we hold the NDP to account with smart incisive questions that will make their skin crawl.”
I have a distinct feeling that Premier Horgan will not lie awake at night worrying about the possibility of Wilkinson “skin crawlers.” But, he should be thinking from time to time about a lean and hungry Cassius. There’s one or more out there with ambition that can dangerously displace loyalty. Mike Harcourt could tell him how to recognize them if he doesn’t already know. So, could Glen Clark and Ujjal Dosanjh and his minister of Finance Carole James who also felt past whisperings of the Cassius chill.
It could be dead, cured by last year’s election victory as “A Matter of Confidence suggests, but is more likely just dormant. Waiting for the next “uneasy head that wears a crown.”