B.C. is ready for a new direction

One of the overused cliches of our culture is that the people get the governments they deserve – though what British Columbians did to deserve Glen Clark is hard to imagine. What we did to deserve Bill Vander Zalm just five years and three premiers before Clark is also a mystery, but such is the nature of B.C. politics.

So in the wake of the May 16 NDP massacre, cliched logic would follow, we deserve a government of 76 Gordon Campbells (subject to two riding recounts), though Whistler voters may be quick to suggest the government is in fact 75 Gordon Campbells and one Ted Nebbeling.

In actual fact, it’s probably a government led by Gordon Campbell and about 20 decent MLAs (including Ted Nebbeling). The rest of the Liberal MLAs may work on legislative committees, as Campbell has suggested, but their main purpose is likely to be voting for government policies. Such is the nature of our parliamentary system.

But a government, particularly one with such an overwhelming mandate as the Liberals, is more than the sum of its MLAs – at this point in B.C.’s history we must cling to the belief that is true. No province has discarded political parties and politicians as quickly and easily as B.C. In the last decade alone we’ve seen the demise of Social Credit, Reform B.C., Gordon Wilson and his Progressive Democratic Alliance and now, perhaps, the NDP.

Gordon Campbell and his Liberals are unproven as a government, yet they have been given the most overwhelming endorsement in B.C. history. Much has been written about the B.C. Liberals being just the latest coalition of the centre-right, put together for the purpose of defeating the NDP. There is certainly some truth to that, and it does fit with the tradition of B.C. politics.

But we also have to hold out some hope that B.C. may be entering a new era in its political evolution, a step forward from the who’s-in-charge-this-week politics which have been associated with B.C. and some Central African nations. For far too long B.C. has, as Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson describes it, punched below its weight in the federal ring.

Mr. Campbell has made numerous commitments to be carried out in the first 90 days his government is in power. He has also, more encouragingly, promised to find and promote the best and the brightest for B.C.’s civil service. This, after several years of provincial governments that ignored deputy ministers and made up policy on the fly, truly would signal a new direction for British Columbia.

And that is what British Columbia needs. Long term planning for the province – regardless of the government’s political leanings – has been absent for years.

This is not to suggest that the Liberals have all the answers and will please all British Columbians every step of the way. The Liberals, like any government, will have to be held accountable for their promises and their actions. But they do have an opportunity to set a new course for B.C. politics

And perhaps, finally, the people of B.C. are fed up enough with the old style B.C. politics and will demand a new standard of the Liberals.

Listen to the people, listen to the top civil servants, Mr. Campbell, and then set a course for education, for health care, for the economy, for the environment. The people of B.C. are ready.

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