It’s been a week from hell for B.C.’s Conservatives, complete with ultimatums, mutinous brinksmanship and rampant media death knelling, all underscored by the restrained jubilance of Liberal thanksgiving.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, it would be appropriate to declare: the turkey is cooked and ready for carving.
The turkey, of course, is John Cummins, a leader without drumsticks. I’m surprised anyone thought he had the legs to be a credible free enterprise alternative for disenchanted voters at the right end of the spectrum.
The week began with Cummins poised to axe party dissidents. It was ugly, but it wasn’t out of character.
I have no sympathy for the Conservatives. It’s not as if they weren’t warned. In March 2011, former government house leader Jay Hill, a 17-year Ottawa veteran from B.C., warned that Cummins was “very foolish to breathe new life into another conservative party rather than work with Premier Christy Clark as the bona fide new leader of the coalition.”
Hill, speaking for sober-minded Conservatives, said “many of us believe that’s exactly the wrong thing to do, so we’ll be speaking out and hopefully the vast majority of conservatives will stay with the Liberal Party as the coalition party and reject what John is doing.”
B.C. Conservatives should have paid attention. Hill knew Cummins was a flake. “Certainly those of us that have worked very closely with John over the years recognize that he’s very headstrong,” he mused. “Headstrong” is Ottawa code for pig-headed.
Another former Conservative MP, Stockwell Day, warned that he had “lived through years where we have seen the vote split … and the result was an NDP government and dark days for B.C.”
“Both people and investment flocked into Alberta, running from the economy-eroding policies of the NDP,” the former MP recalled. “I love B.C. too much to see that happen again. So I am not advocating anything that would risk that vote-splitting, and the NDP getting back.”
Ironically, if Hill or Day had decided to revive the Conservatives in early 2011 and seek the leadership, we would not be having this discussion this week. Regardless, their warnings a year and a half ago fell on deaf ears. Perhaps their efforts at coalition building will resonate now as the Conservatives dig out from the wreckage of this week of bitter turmoil.
For me, issues of leadership always boil down to the essential qualities that make a man or woman worthy of support.
In Cummins’ case, all I see is the meanness of an old man raging against a world that has left him in the dust. That anger compelled him to take total leave of his political senses in May 2009 when he voted for the B.C. NDP.
One of the things that really drove him around the twist was the reconciliation legislation proposed by the Liberals, which he believed would “give about 30 yet-to-be created native groups aboriginal title to over 95 per cent of the province.”
He hated the notion that “these groups will have veto power over development and will receive the lion’s share of revenue that flows from Crown land.” He assailed the Liberals for trying to “buy peace with native-agitators.”
This is not political ideology that has a place in the B.C. I know and love. The good news is Cummins will be ancient history soon enough. M