Politics in B.C. is often referred to as a blood sport. Comparisons are drawn to mud wrestling, hockey and other pugilistic endeavors.
Indeed, Liberal candidates Terry Lake and Kevin Krueger have sometimes been like the infamous Hanson Brothers of the old Slap Shot movie as they crosscheck their hapless NDP opponents.
When people get bored with elections, it’s usually because they’re too tame. When candidates or parties stumble or when they get really mad at each other, it becomes more interesting.
More than a few have stumbled in this campaign. For the first half, it was the NDP taking the hits. Of late, it’s been the Liberals, but they are either so polished or so arrogant that mishaps slide off them like water from a duck.
Take the issue of blatant political favouritism on the part of Thompson Rivers University’s two top leaders. President Kathleen Scherf and Board of Governors chair Ron Olynyk are both shamelessly in the Liberal camp, and getting away with it.
One would think they should, at all costs, avoid partisan politics but such is not the case. Should we not be able to expect those who run one of our most important public institutions to stay above the fray?
Obviously not. I was surprised to see Olynyk at the Gordon Campbell rally in Terry Lake’s campaign headquarters a couple of weeks ago, and learned only later that he’s actually intimately involved in the campaign.
I was even more surprised to see Scherf there. She brushes it off as simply accepting an invitation to a public event, and claims she’d show up at an NDP rally, too, if invited. That I would like to see.
Olynyk, for his part, says maybe political involvement by the likes of himself will be reviewed in future.
That would be nice, since NDP candidate Tom Friedman — a TRU prof — was chastised after one of his workers used a campus email list to campaign for him. Mind you, Friedman thinks that caper was perfectly OK, too.
Look, everyone knows TRU board members are appointed based on their support for the party in power, and the president is appointed by that board, so it’s hardly a non-political body. But, during an election, could they at least try?
After a solid start in which they blew the NDP camp out of the water on a day when both party leaders came to town, Krueger and Lake have taken some much-deserved heat for refusing to attend forums at which they think the New Democrats will be favoured.
Friedman, running against Krueger, made an interesting point Monday when he wondered why Lake and Krueger regard educators as a special interest group but not business people — they refused to attend a forum put on by the former, but were there with bells on for the latter, a much friendlier crowd.
Of course, local goings on pale by comparison to other ridings in the province. We haven’t had any local candidates grabbing breasts or having their pictures taken in their underwear, or running ads asking to be re-elected when they’ve never been elected in the first place, or insulting First Nations.
Speaking of Bill Bennett, he seems to be incapable of staying out of trouble. The incumbent MLA from the Kootenays is knee-deep in it for running an ad saying voters “want someone who pays taxes and is concerned about how that money is being spent.”
First Nations leaders think it’s a swipe at natives and are demanding an apology from the premier, which isn’t likely to happen. Bennett, who assigns the controversy to NDP dirty tricks, has been in trouble before.
Most notably, he embarrassed himself a few years ago with a foul-language email to the local rod and gun club president calling him “an American spy” among other things.
Such things tend to be a distraction from the valuable insights we get from the diverging policy positions articulated by candidates. For example, we learned from Thursday night’s debate that Krueger is “fast and loose with the truth” (in Friedman’s view), that NDP candidate Doug Brown “misled” the public (in Lake’s opinion), that Krueger is a government “toadie” (according to Friedman), and that some of Brown’s campaign workers are “Jack Layton employees” with Toronto cellphone numbers (says Krueger).
Krueger, a political brawler with 14 years of back-alley Legislature street fighting under his belt, is a joy to watch at these things. Post-forum pundits seem to think he was the winner Thursday.
As marginal as such gems might seem, the forum was more than entertainment. For example, Lake let it be known that he doesn’t support education minister Shirley Bond’s dumb idea to force school boards into charging students for busing.
“When I get to Victoria I’m gonna make sure that no charge for school busing happens,” he declared.
Which means either that Bond is already under orders from Campbell to get rid of the problem she created, or that Bond-Campbell are charging ahead with it and Lake, if elected, can say he did his best.
Lake, by the way, was also questioned about some comments he made about the “silver tsunami” in a column in March of last year. Among the comments in that column that didn’t go over well: “Will we need a separate scooter lane next to the bicycle lane? Will we need to ban the wearing of club colours to head off the inevitable rumble in the parking lot of Denny’s just before the 4 p.m. dinner special?”
Lake apologized a week later, but not long after that he stopped writing columns for this paper.
One final note on this election. If you tune into TV7 on Tuesday night for its usual in-depth local polling results, you’ll be watching The Biggest Loser instead. Contractual obligations to air the reality show have pre-empted the station’s normal election coverage.