Appeared in North Shore News – July 23, 2010
Don’t you hate inconsistent people? I do. I’m one of them.
But I digress. Today’s topic is B.C. New Democratic Party leader Carole James. Specifically, why is she dismissed — at least by the powerful oracles of the media who mill around the mainstream and explain all mysteries — as unsuccessful?
A complete inventory of her record will not follow. But, in sum, James has led the NDP out of its dark days of defeat, confusion, ineptness and scandal. She has made the odd slip, as even journalists do, but she has provided that underrated political commodity, competence.
No political leader is far from the glint of knives, even when sheathed, but she has calmed the mad wing of the party while rebuilding a sound front bench starring Mike Farnsworth and Adrian Dix. Unless I misjudge her — and I sweetly remind you that I was a pioneer judge of Blair Wilson and Kash Heed — she is a good person.
James may prove to be a “transition” leader. (We are all in transition — and to a rather sticky end, just as a reminder.)
If polls matter, her party currently buries the governing Liberals, 46 to 23 per cent. Angus Reid tested the popularity of Premier Gordon Campbell and James over the previous three months. Seventy-two per cent of those polled said their opinion of Campbell had worsened, but 18 per cent said the same of James.
Vaughn Palmer, the Vancouver Sun’s brilliant columnist — no irony there — suspects the latter is explained by James allowing Bill Vander Zalm to seize leadership of the dizzily successful anti-Harmonized Sales Tax movement.
I’m not sure James was unwise. The movement may have crested. Its legs are less likely to be the tax itself but rather (one leg) Campbell’s perceived duplicity and (second leg) the last-minute ride of half a dozen business groups to head off at the pass the anti-HST referendum, and legalistically foil the plain will of more than 700,000 British Columbians.
This, where it wasn’t venal, was lemming-stupid. The Liberals may rue the day their pals threw them a lead life preserver. (And then forgot to let it go.)
In short, James seems to this observer to have done modestly, astonishingly, incrementally well. Why so little credit?
Partly, of course, because B.C.’s polarized politics will endure long after the actual poles melt into sunny holiday resorts. British Columbians vote against. The majority has usually found it easier to vote against the NDP than for it. (If effing blunderer Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is allowed back into the NDP’s provincial tent, all bets are off.)
But also, I suspect, because James is a woman. You won’t find one man in the political, media and other elites to admit to a gender bias. That is because what I kindly call “mouth liberals” are thick on the ground. Privately, they have prejudices (and, let us concede, “postjudices,” another of my many inventions) that they wouldn’t dare reveal.
More: Many women share that prejudice. Ask your best women friends whether they’d prefer a man or a woman boss. You may be shocked at their answers, if you are so naïve as to believe the papers, politicians, academics, university students, café intellectuals, and bicycle activists.
And here is my disgraceful inconsistency. I scorn feminist ideology, especially since reading Susan Brownmiller. Millions disagree with me, including some anonymous women at the University of Victoria who once mailed me a venomous package containing the f-word and a fish head.
But I have no trouble at all with women in positions of power, such as in politics, literature or bed. I have always thought that on the whole women are superior to men in the brain way. I feel no prejudice toward unpleasant women that I wouldn’t generously share toward equally unpleasant men.
Not to burden you further, but I hold to the eccentric theory that feminism isn’t a movement by women at all, but by the sinister materialistic state, whether capitalist or communist or whatever, to roust women out of their homes, disconnect them from husbands and children, and lure them into the “liberation” of being good little producers and consumers. A male-made trap. (They said Columbus was crazy too.)
I wrote a ton more this week expanding my theory, backing it with the cautionary tales of Kim Campbell, Rita Johnston and Alexa McDonough. But the editors won’t give me the 10,000 words I need. Wait for it.
– – –
Speaking of gender, I had a bizarre dream recently. I dreamt that the next governor-general was a white, married (to a woman) male! A father! And an Anglican!
Don’t wake me.
– – –
And speaking of taxes, any leftover anger about the HST should be aimed at a report by the Metro Vancouver regional authority — the old Greater Vancouver Regional District with false whiskers — suggesting a one-per-cent piggyback tax on the HST that would raise $450 million.
Metro shrewdly commissioned Harry Kitchen for this study, an Ontario prof who can get out of town fast. He intoned: “The average annual increase in the property tax burden per capita for Metro Vancouver’s services over the past two decades has amounted to nothing more than the price of a couple of cups of coffee per year.”
No kiddin’? Come back and explain my tax bills, professor. The increases could put a down payment on a coffee plantation.
– – –
And speaking more about taxes, much of the increase goes to the arrogant chubby felines of the enduring governments, the bureaucracy.
Statistics in sufficient numbers dull the senses, but these, rounded up by municipal government scold David Marley, will suffice:
In 2006 there were 14 West Vancouver town hall employees paid $100,000 or more. In 2008 there were 28. In 2009 there were 65 (a number slightly inflated by one-time contractual raises and an extra pay period — for all three North Shore municipalities, the 2009 figure was 183.)
Between 2006 and 2009, embracing the worst economic dive since the 1930s, the total West Van payroll rose 25 per cent.
It’s an outrage, but Victoria has decreed that police incomes are excluded.
– – –
And speaking of municipal politics, it’s infuriating that Victoria is imposing four-year terms on local government. If anything, terms should be cut from three to two years.
A mayor is more unassailable in her domain than her federal and provincial counterparts. As chief executive officer and political leader, without a formal partisan opposition and usually much less scrutinized especially by small-town media, she will have four bullet-proof years to rule the town — four years to dispense patronage, favour cronies, punish perceived enemies, isolate those not on side, stroke special interests, fund personal projects, lift initiatives from the agenda when the heat is on and return them when it’s off, and let’s not overlook the well-meaning incompetent who can’t read her hydro bill let alone the town budget — or of course govern flawlessly and to the eternal gratitude and adoration of the citizens.
Obscured by Campbell’s current visible mistakes, this one may produce the most long-term damage. Oh, no — that’s the online gambling evil.
– – –
I saw five cyclists on the new $1.2-million Park Royal-to-13th Street strip that gives pedestrians and cyclists their own generous lane. Two of them chose to ride in the motorized vehicle lane. As they say: Go figure.
© Trevor Lautens, 2010