“There are no true friends in politics. We are all sharks circling and waiting for traces of blood to appear in the water.”
The quote is from maverick British MP Alan Clark, whose death in 1999 at the age of 71 resulted in an obituary mix of high praise in many newspapers for his penetrating wit and outrageous condemnation in others for his less than savoury lifestyle.
I make note of the contrasts as I confess to cherry-picking my opening words from Clark’s “political scold” list of words to remember him by (New York Times, obit).
For months, we have watched, heard, and read about great white sharks circling in the U.S. political pools. Sometimes we have been amused, at other times, shocked and dismayed at vicious exchanges designed to destroy a life – and/or family – rather than challenge a point of view.
Once in a while, present company included, we lapse into our friendly, warm and comfortable Canadian way of thinking that it couldn’t happen here; great white sharks are not acceptable in our gentler, more benign, political splashing pools.
By and large, we don’t have any really vicious political predators in our country. But, we do have a few smaller ones prowling the provincial pools – ever vigilant for the first trace of a wounded rival politician and a trace of blood in the water.
It is why we are trooping to the polls on October 24th for an election a year earlier than the one unanimously legislated by the current government to take place in October 2021. Premier John Horgan has insisted that the problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic and what he perceived as wavering Green Party support – that has propped up his minority government – made it essential for him to seek a majority mandate.
To be able to adequately fight the pandemic and the financial crisis it was creating, he needed the guaranteed support of a clear majority in the Legislature on every vote involving expenditures.
The premier had some cause for concern. His old buddy – and government sustaining partner – Andrew Weaver had up and quit his Green Party leadership, with “health factors” mentioned as the cause, but never detailed.
Weaver, sitting as an independent until the Legislature prorogued, discomfited old friends with words of support for Horgan and wisps of criticism for the party he once led so enthusiastically.
The BC Greens quickly elected Sonia Furstenau as their new leader in the hope she would have a year to prove herself before being tested in a general election.
Then Premier Horgan struck, falling back on the political instinct that seems to be part of every ambitious politician’s DNA.
Now we wait to see if he enhanced his reputation with his “it was essential” reasoning – or if the electorate prefers more truthful assessments and informs him we don’t approve of sharks in our electoral pool.