Liberals scurry to abandon sinking ship

When a politician tells you it’s time to get out of government, go home and spend more time with the family...

When a politician tells you it’s time to get out of government, go home and spend more time with the family, you should always get a second opinion from the spouse.

Four-term MLA Murray Coell was the first Liberal to play the homesick card on Vancouver Island when he recently announced his retirement. My heart went out to Missus Coell. Can you imagine having Murray and his tiny perfect hairdo under foot all day?

Of course, Coell’s decision was the right one. He had the slimmest of pluralities in May 2009, about 245 votes, and his chance of retaining Saanich North and the Islands is slim to none in May 2013.

In the weeks and months to come, I will not be surprised if at least two of the other three Island Liberals — Don McRae (Comox Valley) and Ron Cantelon (Parksville-Qualicum) — decide that the comfort of hearth and home trumps banishment to the political wilderness. Ida Chong (Oak Bay-Gordon Head), who won her seat in 2009 by just 550 votes and fought off a recall campaign, should retire, but I’m not sure she’s savvy enough to read the writing on the wall.

Over on the mainland, MLAs Kevin Krueger, Harry Bloy, Kash Heed and Dave Hayer have also announced their retirements and more will follow this fall as Liberals reflect on the public mood. This list may include such veterans as Gordon Hogg, Colin Hansen, Randy Hawes, Joan McIntyre and beleaguered Speaker Bill Barisoff.

Some of the rumoured retirements also include senior deck officers on the sinking ship such as Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, Education Minister George Abbott and Energy & Mines Minister Rich Coleman.

What has them yearning for more quality family time? The NDP’s 49 to 22 per cent lead in the polls is a good place to start. However, there are some even more telling indicators just beneath the surface.

For example, Angus Reid’s August poll indicates that fully 50 per cent of the Liberals’ 2009 voters have found new homes. Of that, a staggering 17 per cent have gone over to the NDP. Another 30 per cent have fled to the Conservatives despite the fact that the struggling party has a nincompoop for a leader. Liberal deniers will say these are mostly “parked” votes that will come home eventually. Nonsense. Another three per cent of 2009 Liberals have gone Green. Those are parked votes.

Another tell? Over the past three months 47 per cent of those surveyed say their opinion of Premier Christy Clark has “worsened” while 23 per cent say their impression of NDP leader Adrian Dix has “improved.”

Given this steady trend it is not surprising that the Liberals are having a devil of a time finding willing victims to be nominated to take the place of the growing ranks of retirees.

We got a foreshadowing of this in April when both of the soundly-defeated Liberal byelection candidates — Laurie Throness in the Chilliwack-Hope and Dennis Marsden in Port Moody-Coquitlam — were “acclaimed” in the nomination process.  Marsden was a local riding president.

Most recently, we’ve seen the same in the Interior where former Gordon Campbell aide Todd Stone has been acclaimed to replace Kruger in Kamloops-South Thompson and where local riding president Doug Clovechok has been acclaimed the candidate in Columbia River-Revelstoke.

It would seem a skeleton crew of loyal volunteers is being assembled to go down with the ship. M

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