The Abdication of Gordon I
BC Finance Minister Colin Hansen was talking this evening to the always awesome Stephen Quinn on CBC Radio and said something funny. He said that they had to suspend the 15% tax cut that
His Highness Premier Gordon Campbell had announced just weeks ago because they were in an “interregnum period” between leaders and shouldn’t launch any new initiatives until a new BC Liberal leader is chosen, which won’t be until February. Actually, that’s not funny at all. Here’s why.
Using the word “interregnum” to indicate a period between leaders is fine, it technically means the time between monarchs, but in an informal way it could be any leadership gap. The reason it’s a disturbing choice of words is that it came after Mr. Hansen was being harangued by Stephen Quinn for several minutes about why they had to reverse it since government was still functioning. It went something like this:
Stephen: “Did the premier go to the executive council of cabinet before the announcement”
Hansen : “Yes”
Stephen: “Did he go to you, the Finance Minister?”
Hansen: “Of course”
Stephen: “And you agreed it was a good idea?”
Absolutely. It was absolutely a good idea, consistent with their normal decision making practice, but now that they have a leader who won’t be leader in 3 months they need to stop it. They need to wait until a new leader is chosen by the party to see what that leader wants to do. Because they’re in this kind of “interregnum period” where they are rudderless, lost at sea, which no ability to make decisions. The fact that he chose that phrase indicates how he thinks of role of the premier of BC.
This is strange because I was under the impression that the provincial legislature was made up of intelligent, free thinking adults empowered by democratic election to make decisions on behalf of the people of British Columbia. Apparently I’m wrong, apparently they’re actually a bunch of courtiers hanging on to the whims of their King, passing his laws, laughing at his jokes.
Is it really impossible for the BC cabinet to make any decisions of significance in the next three months because they don’t have a leader? Can’t you all talk about things and come to a consensus on the best course of action to take on your own? Perhaps even, deep breath, in the legislature for the public to see and the opposition to debate with you? Does the premier actually have that much power by definition?
I am pretty certain they do not. His courtiers give the permier that power by allowing them to act like a monarch. But remember that every elected member of a legislature has the same vote in the House and they all have the same amount of democratic legitimacy because they were all duly elected by the a riding of roughly the same size.
Apparently this is not how government actually works, at least not in BC. Exhibit B is Bill Bennett’s ejection from the BC cabinet today (yes, it was quite a day for politics wasn’t it). Bill Bennett was the Energy Minister until he dared to say out loud that Gordon Campbell should resign for the good of his party. He also said some other things like Campbell is abusive, he made an ill advised comparison to spousal abuse and made the CBC broadcast the word “bullshit” on a wednesday afternoon. It was basically awesome. Now, according to the rules of cabinet he probably should have been ejected, and he’s very accepting of that But there was a fantastic chance for the BC Liberal cabinet to have their own I Am Sparticus moment here.
Mr. Hansen says the vote to eject Bennett had no dissenters, not that it was unanimous mind you, but that no one voted against it. Bennett, obviously, thinks many abstained and secretly supported him. Perhaps we’ll find out in the coming days, likely not.
But imagine the picture if instead of abstaining, each of those grown adults who are democratically empowered to speak for an average of 50,784 voters (pdf, Elections BC) in their riding instead stood and said:
Bill should shouldn’t have said what he said to the media.
But he’s right. This is bullshit, you should resign, and we should all get down to work rather than spending the next three months doing nothing but sucking up to the next power hungry monarch in waiting.
And if you eject Bill for this and you don’t resign, I’m going to go to the media tomorrow and saying exactly what he said.
But in the movie version it would just be:
I Am Sparticus!