Sultan is a politely independent gent not cut out to be among the cringing court flatterers who populate the Canadian party system
Appeared in Business in Vancouver – June 18, 2013
Smiley-face Christy Clark kilted up in her Lady Macbeth mode and plunged her dagger into two honest cabinet members who dared cross her.
Of course the premier and party will never admit to such a dastardly motive in dispensing with ministers Moira Stilwell and Ralph Sultan. Official explanation: Regional balance. Fresh faces. And all that.
Their stepping out of the Liberal Party line? Pure coincidence. Bloody weapon put aside, Clark’ll sleep soundly, unlike Shakespeare’s conscience-troubled lady.
True, having lost their cabinet jobs and the added $51,000 a year income, Stilwell and Sultan might still be granted lower-paid consolation prizes such as chair or deputy chair of some committee.
Stilwell, who was regional development minister, in a previous life was a doctor and radiologist with deep community service in breast cancer and other good causes. She blotted her copybook by publicly criticizing Da Prima for running that red light in dark of night. Also Stilwell dropped out of the Liberal party nomination race in 2011 to throw her support to George Abbott. This couldn’t have helped, in an occupation where elephantine memory for trifling slights and major treachery goes with the brutal territory.
Ralph Sultan was more ruthlessly exploited. Sultan has wiped out all opponents put together in West Vancouver-Capilano since first elected in 2001, routinely attracting two-thirds of the votes and at or near the top of Liberal vote-harvesters provincewide.
Sultan (emphasis on the “tan”) has credentials that few can even read through without working up a sweat: engineering (UBC), economics (Harvard grad and prof, member Economic Council of Canada), award winner (many), banking (Royal), mining (Global Energy and Minerals Group, Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting), philanthropy (J. W. McConnell Foundation, endowment of a UBC professorship), adviser (Queen’s), forestry (starting as a tree faller before university).
Straight from central casting for finance minister, right? Not. Sultan is a politely independent gent not cut out to be among the cringing court flatterers who populate the Canadian party system’s “Yes, premier, certainly premier, how high, premier?”
For whatever reason, Gordon Campbell passed over him. Last September, East Vancouver native son Sultan finally made cabinet – minister of state for seniors.
Sultan, who turned 80 this month, took the task seriously. He visited 68 communities and met about 1,000 seniors. Quietly charming, approachable and unstuffy, he may well have made a solid contribution to the Liberals’ widely unexpected victory on May 14.
Whereupon Clark treated Sultan – and the seniors – like a resource she had cynically used for the campaign and now cast aside; no replacement was named, a fine kick in the store-bought teeth. But was there a more pointed political reason?
Yes. Clark, you noticed, lost in her own Vancouver-Point Grey riding. The convention is that a safe seat had to be found for her, and the suitable sacrificial Liberal MLA to fall on his sword.
Sultan was high on the media list. Ageism a factor, doubtless. But rookie Andrew Wilkinson, helpfully in Point Grey-abutting Vancouver-Quilchena, was tapped on the shoulder first. Talk. No action.
Then Sultan. He declined. A good guess is that the negotiations weren’t especially amicable. A better guess is that Herself was not amused by his refusal.
So Ben Stewart, Westside-Kelowna, a popular chap and winery owner and evidently not in need of a tag day, generously stepped up to the plate, or the guillotine, or whatever. As has oft been said, watching politics being made is like watching sausage-making, just a little more sickening.
© Trevor Lautens, 2013