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Walker Morrow

BC Liberals are off their game

"Just what we need. Another unprincipled politician."That's just one of the killer lines in the BC Liberal Party's new attack ads aimed at BC Conservative Party leader John Cummins. The ads were unveiled last week, and highlight some apparent controversies in Cummins's record, such as opposition to a provincial minimum wage increase while collecting a $100,000 federal pension, and his vote for the BC NDP in the 2009 provincial election (although to hear Cummins tell it, he couldn't find anyone else to vote for). There's a even a clever website to go along with it all.This sounds like a potentially devastating campaign except for two important facts: the next provincial election is two years away, and Cummins leads a party with no seats in the legislature. Of what is the BC Liberal Party so afraid?Until very recently the BC Conservative Party was essentially a fringe party, run out of party president Wayne McGrath’s basement. McGrath spent years struggling to keep the lights on as the party was plagued with crippling internal feuds. The situation has changed steadily over the past couple years. The infighting has stopped, or at least slowed to a tolerable level. John Cummins, recently elected leader at a Special General Meeting this May, has hit the ground running. Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer describes Cummins as having "a knack for picking his spots and making the most of them." He is an equal opportunity offender, attacking both the provincial NDP and Liberal Party policies. At the same time his party's membership is growing and its fundraising efforts have been a success.In short, the BC Liberal Party has much to fear. They have long relied on the support of moderate right-wing voters who can't stomach voting New Democrat. The Libs are undoubtedly concerned that these voters (and donors… Read More

Starving BC’s justice system

One of the strongest indicators of a healthy society is a well-maintained justice system. Our courts are associated with the worst of crime and misery that society has to offer, but also represent a proud tradition of rights and freedoms. A good court is a testament to a free nation.Conversely, an unhealthy court system is an indicator that something has gone amiss. It means that the application of justice and the incarceration or freedom of countless people has become a matter of  secondary consideration. It is a sign of neglect.Here in British Columbia the courts are very unhealthy.This isn't a new phenomenon. In late 2010 the Victoria Times Colonist reported that a shortage in provincial court judges led to some criminal trials being delayed for up to two years. Courtrooms were closed because there weren't enough judges to sit in them. In September of last year, a report by the BC Provincial Court found significant delays(2) in the province's justice system, which handles 90 percent of its criminal cases. As of March 31, 2010, according to the report, approximately 16,000 adult criminal cases had been pending for over six months, 7,000 for over a year and a further 1,000 cases had been waiting for over a year and a half.The response to this backlog from the BC Liberals' Attorney General Barry Penner was rather underwhelming. He pointed toward the five judges that had recently been appointed by his predecessor, Mike de Jong, with another set to join their ranks by the end of the year. This was an encouraging sign until one accounts for the retirement of five provincial court judges in 2011, leaving the province with fewer judges than it had in 2005. Faced with the fact that appointing six judges wasn't going to solve the court problems, Penner then trotted out a truly classic line: we're broke. "The cost of operating one… Read More

B.C. Hydro and our government’s so-called “fiscal conservatism”

British Columbian politics has a long-standing tradition of keeping the NDP out of power (or the CCF, depending how far back you want to go). For the better part of the last century, the Liberal/Conservative coalition, the Social Credit government and the Liberal government of today have worked to keep that tradition alive. Indeed, there has been a rather fiscally conservative government trying to keep the socialists out of power ever since there were socialists in British Columbia. In the words of Crawford Kilian late last year in The Tyee:For over 60 years, the only real party in this province has been the New Democrats and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation before them. It hasn't always been competent, but at least it's had some consistent political principles. Their opponents since 1945 have been a sloppy centre-right coalition of big business, small business and opportunists. They've had no real political position except to get as rich as possible while keeping the NDP out of power.(1) I tend to agree with this take, although, unlike Kilian, I actually think this is a good thing. The NDP and CCF deserve congratulation for maintaining a solid political entity for so long, but I have no particular love for their ideals, and because of this I'll take a formless free-market coalition over them most days of the week. I say most days of the week because, even though a party acts as though it favors a relatively free market economy and the ensuing benefits, this doesn't mean that in practice such a party will actually deliver this outcome. Most conservative types know the deal, even if they don't like to admit it: we vote them in on fiscally conservative values, they dump those values once in office and do whatever they want. It's an old story. The… Read More