Surrey “no” to casino evidence BC Liberals power is lost
By Bruce A Stewart
There was a time, not so long ago, when the BC Liberals spoke, the people were told in no uncertain terms to sit down and shut up.
It didn’t matter how many citizens came out to a city council meeting to oppose a provincial government initiative, the mayor and city council would grit their teeth and vote to enable the province to get what it wanted.
Surrey — BC’s second largest (and fastest growing) city — was given an “opportunity” to add a casino complex to the South Surrey area.
The Minister responsible for stickhandling this deal, Rich Coleman, was in favour. The BC Liberals were already planning the campaign literature talking about the jobs brought to the ridings involved.
No one expected Mayor Dianne Watts to vote against the provincial government’s “done deal”. But she did, and down to defeat it went — to the cheers of Surrey’s citizens.
Coleman — who, since first being appointed a minister by Gordon Campbell way back when, has always bullied his way to getting what he was in charge of done — was taken aback. A little bluster later, as Liberal MLAs in the area started to back away from their own government’s plans in public, and Coleman did something never before seen since the Liberals came to power in 2001.
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He sat down and shut up.
Fifteen weeks before election day, Christy Clark’s BC Liberals find themselves in a new and very uncomfortable place.
Ignored. Out of power, effectively.
Without the patina of “we’ll be here after the election” to help ram their election preparation through all opposition, they’re going to find creating the illusion that they’re still a dynamic, vibrant government harder than expected.
After all, they’re just about out of levers.
They might be able to squeeze ICBC one more time with a pre-election goodie, but that’s about it.
BC Hydro has nothing to give — and its own inability to get its smart meter installation program completed in any reasonable length of time means the BC Liberals are going to the polls with angry voters that have just had their smart meter applied (with its power cost differentials showing up on their bill) and no time or money left to buy support.
The attempt to tie the hands of all concerned — potential successors and unions alike — with Christy’s ten year contract proposal to the BC Teachers’ Federation, has died on the vine.
Still, a casino in South Surrey seemed a pretty good bet.
It would have created both construction jobs and some 500 permanent positions, opportunities in the area (which is normally choked with traffic as people travel to where the work is).
Other businesses might have done well from Americans crossing the border to attend shows and plays. Locals wouldn’t have had to travel to the River Rock in Richmond, or other venues around the Lower Mainland.
CKNW radio editorialist Bruce Allen was definitely in the casino’s corner, pointing out how many from Surrey complain “there’s nothing here to do” and how popular the casino/show complexes in Richmond and Coquitlam have been (and how many good entertainers play them).
But Surrey’s citizens didn’t want it. They went through the usual motions of petitioning and presenting to council.
Council split 4-4; Mayor Watts cast the deciding vote. Against.
Watts has been touted as a possible provincial politician and potential premier one day. Conventional wisdom would have seen her aid the party now, in exchange for a welcome later.
Watts’ vote gained support from outgoing MLA Kevin Falcon from the Cloverdale area in Surrey, a potential challenger to Christy Clark’s leadership once the election is over. The battle lines are drawing themselves up, in other words.
As for Coleman, his persona from his RCMP days — be tough, be loud, be demanding — has received a solid kick in the teeth.
This to a man who as energy & mines minister and housing minister under Clark, and minister of public safety and Solicitor-General, of forests, and of housing & social development, has always gotten his way, and seeing his projects jammed down the throats of whatever city or region was affected.
Premier Clark depends on people like Coleman creating opportunities to turn the polls (dismal) around to get the Liberals a fourth term.
Instead, their power is bleeding away, publicly and quickly.
Ahead, there’s little to bring joy to the BC Liberals. Yes, the HST goes away on April 1, but any complaints about the transition back to a provincial sales tax will be resonating right in the middle of the campaign (the election is on May 14).
And, of course, the province is in deficit, so turning funds into promises to bribe the electorate with its own money will be hard to come by.
Clark’s hole card was compliant cities, and enough of a sweetheart deal to lock in major labour peace.
Both have given her the (metaphorical) finger.
The long odds on Clark remaining Premier just got longer.
Category: British Columbia