Richard Zussman and Rob Shaw with their new book, A Matter of Confidence: The Inside Story of the Political Battle for B.C., a collaborative project the two legislative reporters teamed up on after the fall of Christy Clark’s Liberal government gave way to a John Horgan-led NDP provincial government. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Richard Zussman and Rob Shaw with their new book, A Matter of Confidence: The Inside Story of the Political Battle for B.C., a collaborative project the two legislative reporters teamed up on after the fall of Christy Clark’s Liberal government gave way to a John Horgan-led NDP provincial government. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

A Matter of Confidence: How Christy Clark took a tumble while John Horgan was handed the house

Rob Shaw and Richard Zussman chronicle the province’s ‘bizarre journey’ in new book

It was a moment in time, and they knew it.

Rob Shaw had been reporting from the B.C. legislature for the better part of a decade when he and Richard Zussman, then a CBC broadcaster, stood in the halls of Government House on a late June evening in Victoria, and watched as a province painted red for 16 years, turned orange.

Between the two of them, they’d seen a lot, heard a lot, and reported a lot.

But, it was the historical decision made by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon 52 days after an incredible election night that left the Clark-led Liberals failing to win enough seats to govern on their own, that the pair knew they were sitting on a story that hadn’t yet been told.

“It was fresh,” Shaw remembers. “The government had just fallen, the Liberals were still smarting, Christy Clark was angry when we talked to her, going through this almost grieving process, and John Horgan had yet to become the kind of premier where you’re sort of walled off in your office.”

It was, as they write in their first book together – A Matter of Confidence.

Released mid-March, the book has already sold out at bookstores across Victoria and Vancouver, sits in Amazon Canada’s Top 50, was named the #1 best-selling B.C. published book, and the Globe and Mail called it a “Canadian politics must-read.”

Shaw, the Vancouver Sun’s legislative reporter, sums it up as the story of “this bizarre journey that the province went on.”

And it’s about people, he says. Real people – Andrew Weaver, who loves cat naps, Pokemon Go and paintball, and Clark who they say provided “amazing windows” into who she is as a person – who they wanted to describe.

Since the ten-year reign of former premier Gordon Campbell crushed under the weight of an HST plan that viciously backfired, Shaw has watched people across the province slowly become more engaged in politics.

When a nail-biter of an election left the Liberals with 43 seats, the NDP with 41 and the Green with three, but with all the power, people saw for the first time, their vote had actual impact.

It was an incredible citizen uprising that engaged voters like never before, he says.

“We thought it would make sense to write the book for those people to show them this crazy period of time that we had gone through in politics.”

It was Zussman (who now works for Global) who got the ball rolling, having popped into the press gallery one day, looked at Rob and said, “We should write a book.”

They say they didn’t know what they were doing, had no idea how to start, and weren’t sure anyone would even want to read it. So they just took off and did it as fast as they could, Shaw recalls.

“We had all this material, we just had to go back and remember it,” he says, describing how he dug through old tapes and notebooks to mine what would end up on the book’s pages.

“That was one of the most interesting parts,” Zussman says, of piecing together hundreds of versions of the same stories. “The book really is the closest we could get to the truth as possible because you never really know if people could be pulling your leg.”

Clark, Horgan and Weaver all agreed to multiple interviews as did current and former cabinet ministers and staffers. The pair also called on fellow reporters, veterans of the press gallery, who provided important historical context and advice.

With the nuance of varied voices, the two were able to reconstruct scenes and use dialogue where it was provided from sources. But, Shaw says: “We didn’t go down the gossipy route.”

In total, over 70 people sat down with Shaw and Zussman over eight weeks last August and September.

“We were blown away when we started this project how much people wanted to talk,” Zussman says. “Everybody wants their piece of history to be told.”

It’s been 63 years since a government has fallen on a confidence vote in British Columbia, and more than 130 years since it has resulted in the opposition taking power without calling another election.

Shaw remembers feeling like he had a front-row seat to witness this incredible result that so very rarely occurs; he was struck by how it felt both “oddly normal” and “so historic.”

The book weaves the same thread, documenting the turbulent time with photos and words to paint significant moments like the ones between Clark and Guichon, and Guichon and Horgan.

“It’s not often that you have dialogue in those private meetings out in the public like this,” Zussman says.

At its root, the project is one that both hope make the intricacies of government more accessible to people.

“I don’t really like politics,” Shaw says. “I like the fact that government touches everything. The naked art of politics doesn’t really fascinate me.”

Electoral politics may not matter to people, Zussman says.

“But childcare matters to them, transit matters to them, housing matters to them, health care matters to them,” he counters. “So I hope this book gives people a better insight into those people who make those decisions that matter to everybody’s everyday lives.”

Rob Shaw and Richard Zussman will launch A Matter of Confidence: The Inside Story of the Political Battle for B.C. tonight at Munro’s Books (1108 Government St.) at 7 p.m.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

C

BC politicsBooks

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Victoria mural artists Joshua Lundrigan (from left) and Paul Archer join Rob Chyzowski, co-owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in front of an Archer-designed mural that went up on Thursday at the Inner Harbour restaurant. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Positivity rules with new outdoor mural from Victoria artist

Paul Archer teams with Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner for patio project

Donna Jones, who was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley, is the executive director of the documentary ‘Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence’. (Submitted)
Islander produces documentary offering hope to those with addictions

Donna Jones and husband Brent just released Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Courtenay artist Christine Boyer presents Alongside My Path: Native Wildflowers of Canada at Gallery Merrick from April 9 to 23. (Photo courtesy Christine Boyer)
Island painter shows off the wildflowers of Western Canada in first solo show

Courtenay’s Christine Boyer presents floral exhibit at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley led the effort to create a Vancouver Island poetry booklet in recognition of National Poetry Month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library publishes booklet for National Poetry Month

Collection features winners of ‘Poem in your Pocket’ contest

SENCOTEN language revitalizationist and filmmaker Renee Sampson’s short film, Bringing Our Language Back to LIfe, shows online during the Reel 2 Real International Youth Film Festival, April 14-23. (Photo courtesy Wapikoni)
SENCOTEN language featured in short film created on Saanich Peninsula

Renee Sampson film highlights importance of passing on traditional languages to youth

The area surrounding the Chemainus Rotary Club’s bunker door is one of the new surfaces that will feature a mural. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Up to three new murals coming to Chemainus

Project will be coordinated between the Rotary Club and Festival of Murals Society

Jules Sherred, photographer and owner of Polaris Creative, is putting together an exhibit that combines two of his greatest passions: food and advocacy for those with disabilities. (Polaris Creative photo)
Kickstarter launches for fully accessible exhibit focused on food

Raising awareness has been Sherred’s life’s work.

Sooke artist Jessica Ruth Freedman is one of nine virtual in-residence artists who share the creative process, conduct webinars, write and offer sage advice with artsUNITE, a free online wayfinding platform for artists. (Contributed - Jessica Ruth Freedman)
Sooke artist joins artsUNITE, getting creative through pandemic

National program brings much-needed support to arts community

Most Read