I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around the reality that the most important political figure in B.C. in the New Year will be Conservative Party leader John Cummins.
He’s over the hill. His elevator barely makes it to the top floor. His social conservatism is embarrassing. And yet, he is emerging as the architect of a majority NDP government in 2013.
Just before Christmas, a poll by Forum Research Inc. revealed that the upstart Conservatives are now running neck and neck with the faltering Liberals at 23 per cent support. The NDP has 34 per cent support, enough to form a comfortable majority if the free enterprise vote remains so evenly divided.
Some media poli-wags have dismissed the poll because Forum does not have a great track record. However, I think it is important to note that this was a traditional telephone survey and the sample was a large one, more than 1,000 voters.
The poll also identified a reversal of popularity for Premier Christy Clark. Less than a third of voters approve of Clark’s performance and 45 per cent disapprove. Dix, on the other hand, has an approval rating of 37 per cent with just 28 per cent disapproving.
This is sweet indeed for Cummins. His hatred of the Liberals is so complete he actually voted NDP in 2009 while he was still a Tory MP even though his riding ran a Conservative candidate.
I know he bristles when accused of splitting the free enterprise vote. He’d like us to believe it’s about forgotten right of centre voices being heard. In fact, he knows well he is setting the stage for an NDP majority and he is content. This is not about potentially governing, it’s about revenge.
The genesis of this free enterprise coup d’état is the decision two decades ago by Gordon Wilson and Gordon Campbell to ignore the underpinnings of the Social Credit coalition and erase all vestiges of Conservatism on the ruling right.
You might recall that W.A.C. Bennett, a Conservative, stole the name Social Credit from Alberta not because he was enamoured with the Prairie party’s funny money policies and Christian values but because he was savvy enough to know that it would take a coalition of Tories and Grits to sideline the dreaded socialists.
We don’t have to wait long to discover whether or not Cummins and his Conservatives are the real thing. This spring there will be byelections in Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody-Coquitlam.
I believe the NDP will win the Port Moody-Coquitlam seat vacated by Iain Black who quit the Liberals to become the Vancouver Board of Trade CEO.
But, Barry Penner’s Fraser Valley seat is another matter. Penner, the always popular environment minister, has told folks he quit to spend more time with his family. But, his riding supporters know better. They know he had lost faith in his party and they may be in a mood to punish Premier Clark.
Cummins’ candidate in this battle will likely be high profile SFU criminology professor John Martin who has written a controversial right wing column for the Chilliwack Times for years.
I think he has a fair chance of taking the seat.
If that happens and the Conservatives actually get a desk and a voice in the legislature in 2012, Christy might just as well turn out the lights in the West Wing and hand the keys to Dix. M