Our story thus far: Adam Charlesworth, Aurora award winning radio personality with great hair, has convinced your chronicler to be his campaign manger as he prepares to run for the Green Party in the May 28th British Columbia General Election. The ruling NDP government, plagued in recent months by a bingo scandal, is in a tight battle with the opposition Liberals who, amazingly, are on the defensive as new Premier Glen Clark manages the brilliant maneuver of campaigning on the Liberals’ record (which is pretty amazing since no one alive can remember when the Liberals last held power in B.C.). So with the Liberals on the defensive, the NDP gaining, and the Reform Party goose-stepping, the Greens are about to make their big election-eve move. But, as we shall see, not everyone is playing fair….
Yet again, Adam was phoning me. I thought the new unlisted number would work, but no, he was still able to track me down. I, of course, had memorized his phone number, and I checked the call display when he called. Obviously, he was one step ahead of me and had changed his phone number, too.
“Well?” he asked.
“Well what?” I asked back.
“Well, how did it go?” He was referring to the all-candidates’ debate on the local community cable channel. There were eight candidates, including a Natural Law candidate and NDP environment Minister Moe Shiota. The debate started with independent candidate David Shebib’s opening comment, wherein after a moment of staring crazily into the camera foaming at the mouth, he started yelling, “There’s no one watching! It’s all a big media-driven conspiracy! You aren’t allowed to vote for who you want!! Run! Run to your church basements! Conspiracy! Conspiracy! They tell you nothing but lies!!” He was right, of course, but an election campaign was not the place to bring up ethics and honesty. He interrupted the other candidates by shouting, “Fraud! Fraud! Media pawn!” until the moderator turned off his microphone. Adam gave his opening remarks last, right after the Natural Law candidate.
“Well, I think you did really good. You used that King Solomon story about cutting the baby in half to your advantage. That was one for the highlight reel. But I think you were in a tough spot having to regain the audience after the Natural Law speaker.”
“Yeah. She was pretty cute. And she didn’t even once mention levitation.”
“Isn’t that just like a politician? They tell they’re all for debt reduction and family values during the election, but when they get in they suddenly spring tofu, yogic flying and karmaic defense shields on you.” Later, it seemed ironic how my words would come back to haunt me.
“No kidding. How did I handle the question and answer session?”
Here I had to be diplomatic. After the opening statements, for the next ninety minutes, the candidates fielded phone-in questions from the viewing audience. Surprisingly, there were people other than me watching. Unfortunately for Adam, no one phoned in with a question for him. Someone had a question for the Natural Law candidate, and someone even had one for David Shebib. (This resulted in more mouth foaming.) I felt like phoning in just to tell Adam that his hockey team had lost that night. Finally, the last question was to Mighty Moe Sihota concerning transit issues. The moderator, in either a move of pity or a carefully crafted political dirty trick, said, “Well, let’s bring the Green Party in on this last question. Mr. Charlesworth, what about transit?”
Adam’s response, although witty and off the cuff, was not as lucid as I would have liked: “[snore] Huh? Wha--? Can you, ah, repeat—what?” In terms of substance, Adam’s response had been no worse than any other politician’s that night. His delivery was, I’m afraid, not up to snuff.
“At least you didn’t get spit all over your microphone like some of the other candidates did,” I replied hopefully. “How’s that lawsuit going against BCTV for not allowing the Greens in the TV debate?”
“Not well. BCTV just sent party headquarters a letter showing them all the legal precedents, and a friendly note saying, ‘Don’t bother suing, you’ll never win. No one ever has. And here’s the bill from our lawyers for their time.’”
“No kidding. The only mention we got at all on BCTV was when one of our candidates was being investigated for having naked hot tub parties with teenage girls.”
“Well, no nudes is good nudes. It didn’t help when they interviewed his campaign manager and he said, ‘Right on!’”
My candidate was obviously tense. The campaign had not gone well. (At least, that’s what he told me. As he campaign manager, I felt it was my duty to stay out of the limelight. Far out of the limelight. As far out as possible.) “Look,” I said, “it’s not so bad. The NDP’ll squeak in and let’s face it, they’re the best choice of the mainstream parties, right?”
“Sure,” Adam grumbled. “With the NDP, we’re only speeding towards extinction, not hurtling like we would be with Campbell and the Liberals.”
“Now, they’ve done some good. They’ve balanced the budget. They created the Forest Renewal Fund, which by their own act of parliament, the government is not allowed to transfer into general revenue. It’s not like they’ve been lying about the budget during the election and will be forced to break the law and use those funds to cover the deficit, is it? No government in their right mind would do that.”
Whoever accused politicians of being sane?
Final Results -- Malahat-Juan de Fuca
Sihota, Moe NDP 13,833
Landon, Heather BC Liberal Party 6,770
Davidson, Scotty Reform BC 1,179
Whims, Ron PDA 921
Charlesworth, Adam Green Party 376
Danyluck, Sylvia Natural Law 60
Shebib, David Independent 58
O’Neil, Bob Communist 35
Final Results -- British Columbia
NDP 39 seats
BC Liberal Party 33 seats
Reform BC 2 seats
PDA 1 seat
Epilogue: Won’t Get Fooled Again
But, boys and girls, we all know how our story turned out, don’t we? You see, the NDP knew they weren’t going to balance the budget before they called the election. They, um, fibbed. That’s it. They campaigned on a balanced budget they knew they didn’t have. A big fib. And then they had to enact legislation to repeal their own law saying that they couldn’t dip into the Forest Renewal Fund and take money that they swore up and down would never be used to erase the deficit. Only took them three months in office to defile themselves totally. And politicians wonder why they get no respect anymore.
As The Who said, lo those many years ago:
“Meet the new boss. The same as the old boss.”
Originally published in UNDER THE OZONE HOLE Number 15, September 1996
2003 Update: Where Are They Now?
The NDP: went through three Premiers (Glen Clark, Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh) in their last term before finally being demolished by Gordon Campbell's BC Liberal Party in 2001. The Liberals won 77 seats to the NDP's two.
Adam Charlesworth: vanished into the wilds of Toronto. Last seen trying to score tickets to a Leafs-Oilers game;
Mike Harcourt: the former Premier injured his spinal cord in a near-fatal fall at his house in late 2002. As of this writing in 2003, he is again making public appearances while on his way to what his doctors describe as an amazing recovery;
Glen Clark: Clark resigned after being charged in a casino licensing scandal. The court proceedings took years, but Clark was eventually exonerated by an acquittal. The judge said that Clark had erred in his judgment, but bad judgment is not illegal;
Gordon Campbell: Finally became Premier in 2001. He continued to blame everything wrong in the world on "10 years of NDP mismanagement," yet in his first year, he slashed taxes to the rich and created the biggest budget deficit in the province's history. He tore up contracts with hospital workers' unions and government civil servants, claiming the contracts were too expensive for the province, yet he refused to break lucrative agreements with business interests or reduce the "golden handshake" deals being given to deputy ministers that Campbell's government has hired, all the while claiming that a "contract is an unbreakable sacred trust."
Some trusts are more sacred than others in the Campbell government, as BC was about to find out.
Despite the upheaval in the province, all signs pointed towards a Liberal re-election in 2005, until Campbell got falling-down drunk and tried to drive himself home in an SUV during a vacation in Hawaii in early 2003, thus becoming the only sitting premier in Canadian history to serve time in jail. And after having spent the last decade in Opposition, demanding that NDP ministers resign for even the slightest appearance of impropriety, Campbell refused to resign, citing that his mistake occurred on his "personal time," and thus his "terrible mistake" (and presumably his brand-new criminal record) don't really count as impropriety. One can only assume therefore that if one of his ministers spent his vacation exploring the under-age sex clubs in Bangkok, that would be okay too, since it was on "personal time."
Wasting money can get you fired in the Campbell government. Recklessly endangering other people's lives seems to be a normal course of action.
British Columbia: Since Bill Bennett's second term from 1979-1983, no premier in BC has managed to survive through a complete term. Bennett retired towards the end of his third term in 1986. Since then, six premiers in a row have resigned under suspicious circumstances, or were put up by their respective parties as the sacrificial figurehead to get slaughtered in the next election.
BC was recently declared one of the "have not" provinces, and we certainly have less, unless you're in the highest income bracket. Less schools, less hospitals, less services all for the sake of luring businesses to the province. Big business must like employees who are sick, uneducated, ill trained and low paid, because those are the only employees that will be left in this province after Campbell's version of "trickle-down" economics had bled us all dry. This is now a province where deputy ministers get 15% bonuses for dropping people off the welfare rolls and bringing forth legislation that reduces provincial care for children in distress.
Hey, if I was premier of this province, I'd drink too!