VICTORIA – British Columbia’s current political scene is something like an omelet: you know there are eggs in it, but as for the remaining ingredients, you’ve got to trust the cooks and what the menu says.
According to one of the cooks, there are some old-fashioned social democratic principles in the omelet, but you’ve got your doubts, what with the budget cutting, staff reductions and program slashing the NDP has embarked on.
Another of the cooks assures you that he’s mixed in a good deal of Liberal stuff, but then, Gordon Campbell’s policies and their close resemblance to the Fraser Institute agenda make you wonder just what the hell kind of an omelet he’s trying to serve you.
The only one sticking to his recipe is Reformer Jack Weisgerber. His creation has got everything an omelet created in an old-fashioned free-enterprise kitchen should have. And now, he’s trying to sell his recipe to Campbell in return for working in the Liberal leader’s kitchen
Enough already of the metaphors. The fact is that B.C. politics may be on the verge of changing dramatically. At the Liberal convention in Penticton last week, Campbell invited the provincial Reform Party to join him in a united front against the NDP.
It took him long enough. During the years leading up to the last election, Campbell’s arrogance precluded any chance of a merger with the Reform Party. Humbled by his party’s defeat, he’s now doing what he should have done three years ago
To sweeten the pot for Reform, Campbell has dropped two major planks from his last election platform – the privatization of B.C. Rail and the reduction of seats in the legislature. Both initiatives were unpalatable to northern British Columbians, and that’s where the Reform Party has its base.
Even though the Reform Party has only two seats in the legislature, the latest polls show that support for the party stands at about 22 per cent, and that’s the prize Campbell is after.
Weisgerber says Campbell is on the right track, but he doesn’t believe the Liberal label will appeal to Reform supporters. He’d like the Liberals to agree to a name change that would appeal to all NDP opponents.
Richard Neufeld, the only other Reformer in the legislature, also doesn’t rule out a merger with the Liberals. He says Campbell is talking to him and he’s listening.
But Neufeld’s support comes a price. He wants to see some fundamental changes in Liberal policy. He wants the powers of the B.C. Council of Human Rights curtailed. He fears that the government’s decision to give the council more clout against hate-mongers might infringe on free speech.
Neufeld also would like Campbell to strengthen his stand against adoption of children by same-sex couples.
Never mentioned in situations such as this is that the suitor give some sort of assurance that the blushing bride will get a cabinet job, but it’s part of the dialogue. Count on it.
Weisgerber’s condition that the Liberals agree to a change in party name makes sense. W.A.C. Bennett would probably never have smashed the Liberal-Tory coalition of his day had he not adopted the Social Credit name for his fledgling party.
Regardless, however, of how much sense it makes, the Liberals aren’t going to agree to rename their party, so Weisgerber might as well drop that demand.
Meanwhile, the NDP will try everything to prevent a so-called free-enterprise coalition from forming by ridiculing both Liberals and Reformers and accusing them of abandoning whatever principles they have.
But whatever the outcome of the present negotiations, I strongly believe that at the next election, the NDP will be facing a united adversary under whatever banner, simply because the supporters of the various right-of-centre parties will demand it.