For regular readers of this blog (Hi Mom!) and my social media feeds, my biases this election have been made pretty clear. I have gone on at length over the last couple of years about the public policy reasons I think we need a change in Victoria, from transportation to affordable housing to regional planning and climate/energy policy. Six years into this, my initial hopes that the Liberals under Christy Clark would surprise everyone and govern to the centre have been dashed. Then tossed under the wheels of a bus. A bus recently set on fire.
To quote another notable Conservative leader, “An election is no time to discuss serious issues”, and a myriad of public policy issues in this province are clearly too serious for our major media outlets to give them headline treatment. However, the fact this following headline is not the biggest (or only) issue in this election suggests our democracy is not as healthy as we would like:
We are at the point where even the most ardent of Christy Clark supporters are not bothering to battle the perception that she, and the party she leads, is corrupt. The recent strategy to paint their opposition as similarly (if not equally) corrupt is evidence of this: they cannot deny their own record or the public perception, they just hope to splash around enough mud that everyone looks dirty.
There is no point going through the exhaustive list of ethical issues this government has faced. From the illegal stripping of teachers contracts that was defended for 12 years all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada before they had to admit they were wrong (although, they never admitted they were wrong) to the shady sale of BC Rail and resultant police investigation and hush-money scandal broken by a guy who is now a Liberal Candidate(!). There are the number of blatantly false statements on the record regarding RCMP investigations, one resulting in a death. We had triple deleting of e-mails, “Quick Wins”, a Party ED indicted for corruption in Ontario., we had Bloy, Virk, Grayden, and Boessenkool. The list goes on.
When is the last time you saw a televised debate where the moderator was comfortable reading a list of ethical failures and asking the leader of a governing party, straight out: After all this, how can we trust you? Clark’s answer was, in essence, “it doesn’t matter“. That alone should lose an election.
All this aside (and that is a lot to toss aside), Clark cannot escape the public’s realization that she is bought and paid for, that decisions being made are based on donation received by her party, and by herself though a tidy little fundraising dividend (that is also resulting in a police investigation). It may be the oldest axiom in politics that you “got to dance with them that brung you”, and there are varying levels of truth to that idea. I’m an elected official, I received donations from people, companies, and unions towards my campaign. I know how sensitive is the suggestion those donations come with strings, and do everything in my power to avoid conflict of interest.
However, rarely in government are these strings so laid bare as with the current BC Liberal Party. The recent report by Dermod Travis connects the dots between the donations given to the BC Liberals and the variety of benefits afforded to those who are in the Millionaires Club. From avoiding charges in the biggest environmental spill in Canada’s history to sweetheart infrastructure deals and continued access to target bears at $30,000 a pop. It is banal to read through, and it is easy to see why Clark is not even trying to mount a defense.
None of this, I note, is policy related. Nothing here is directly linked to the serious job of governance. If defeated, Christy Clark will potentially have no governance legacy at all, except a closet full of skeletons that have long since spilled out and filled the room.
But, electorally, what does it mean?
Here we are with 10 days to go, the polls show the election is still too close to call. The Postmedia Newspapers of Note are dutifully reporting BC Liberal talking points in attempt to paint the opposition as angry or creepy; social media bubbles are keeping all but the most trolly of us away from hearing different opinions, and everyone is wondering if the Greens will be spoilers, and if so, for whom? Somehow the idea of re-electing what is (according to media from New York to Los Angeles) a fossil-fuel embedded kleptocracy of the first order, is not out of the realm of possibility. Not only is this not front page, it is hardly a story at all. We are so saturated in corruption, that we have lost our sensitivity to it.
I think this government deserves relegation to the penalty box for a bunch of public policy reasons. I am more bothered by the idea that a government, so demonstrably crooked that they won’t even bother denying it anymore, actually thinks that doesn’t matter to the electorate. What really keeps me up at night, though, is that they may be right. As someone who (perhaps naively) works every day to further better public policy and the democratic process, I don’t even know what that means.