Leers and Frothing on the Campaign Trail ’96: Part Two: The Second Part

by John W. Herbert

The story so far: Adam Charlesworth, Aurora Award winning radio personality with great hair, has convinced your chronicler to be his campaign manager as Adam prepares to run for the Green Party in the upcoming provincial election. I, sensing the chance to do a series of humorous articles agree immediately. Meanwhile, the ruling NDP government has found itself on the ropes battling a decade-old party scandal that has blown up in their faces. It is against this backdrop that we rejoin our heroes, about to thrust themselves deeply into the political muck. But first, some exposition....

The bursting boil that spoiled the NDP’s chance at re-election is a decade-old scandal only now reaching the light of day. It is not uncommon for many political parties in B.C. to raise funds by holding charity events (i.e. bingo) wherein the charity and the party split the proceeds. Back in the mid-1980s, a group of NDP bigwigs in Nanaimo formed a holding company (Nanaimo Commonwealth Holdings) to administer such events, as well as to invest the NDP’s portions of the take. But for a time in the 1980s, the charities did not receive their cut. These facts became public knowledge during the reign of Premier Mike Harcourt, who, like many members of his government, had no knowledge of the events, and whose involvement with the party at the time consisted of membership in it only.
The scandal forced Harcourt to resign, not because of any involvement (he wasn’t involved, after all), but for his inept way of handling the crisis. (After months of Harcourt’s waffling, Minister Joan Smallwood offered her resignation, saying that although she wasn’t involved, someone has to take the fall for this. Harcourt refused her resignation. When she leaked word of her attempted resignation a couple of days later, Harcourt fired her. Ain’t politics grand?)

It was Adam on the phone. Again. “I think I’ve got our slogan,” he said.
“Uh, huh. What is it?”
“‘Not Left, Not Right, but Forward.’ Whatta ya think?”
Adam’s behaviour was starting to concern me. He was taking all this far too seriously. This was but another example. Whereas I thought that “Adam. He’ll Nationalize the Hair Club,” was a damn fine piece of electioneering, he was thinking up real slogans.
“You’re serious about this,” I said in shocked realization. “I mean, you’re really running.”
“Of course I am!”
“But why? You can’t really think you’re going to be elected.”
“I hope not. But the key is awareness. If we can run a full slate of 75 candidates, that makes us all the more credible. And credibility is what the Greens have always lacked. But if we get a full slate, then maybe, maybe, we get on the leaders’ tv debate. And you know what a good showing on the debate can do.”
I did, indeed. In the last election five years ago, Liberal Leader Gordon Wilson, whose party had no seats in the house but was running a full slate, finagled his way into the debate and turned in a bravura performance. He took his party from the political nether-world to 17% of the popular vote and firmly entranced as the second party in the house after the election. (And, as the Liberals stand ready to form the next government, where is Gordon Wilson? He and fellow Liberal MLA Judi Tyabji were caught performing public adultery and eventually thrown out of the party Wilson had restored to credibility in a revolt lead by new leader Gordon Campbell.. Now Punch Gord and Judi are the only members of the PDA, a party sure to be obliterated come the election. Ain’t B.C. politics grand?)
With Harcourt gone, one would think that NDP leadership hopefuls would be coming out of the woodwork. But, no. One by one, all the party power brokers took themselves out of the race. (For a time it truly looked like “None of the Above” might actually become premier.) One by one, the mighty fell by the wayside until only cabinet minister Glen Clark remained. Oh sure, there were a couple of other people running (a mortician from Port Alberni and a tree hugger named Corky. This is B.C., after all.), but Clark was a shoe-in, winning by a landslide. Things looked rosy for a day, even two, until B.C. Hydro-gate arose from nowhere to dominate the headlines.
So this was Adam’s plan all along. If the Greens could run a full slate, they could use the Liberal Party’s 1991 precedent and perhaps wangle their way onto the Leader’s Debate. But would their message be heard? The debate was sure to be acrimonious between Clark and new Liberal Gordon Campbell. Campbell, a Vancouver backroom double-vested money boy, was currently running a series of ads in which he appeared in a lumberjack shirt to cultivate that “one of the boys” appeal but instead was earning scorn and ridicule. (His spin doctors should be sued for malpractice.) Clark, attempting to buy votes by freezing tuition fees, auto insurance rates, and taxes, is slowly watching his slim chance for victory disappear as the RCMP continue more investigations into the bingo business. And now, the B.C. Hydro scandal -- well, not much of a scandal really, but a scandal that the Liberal Party kept the lid on until it was politically advantageous to release it, namely Clark’s swearing in day. How was the Green Party going get heard through that?
“Adam, you guys are the fringe! You’re in the Political Hinterland’s Who’s Who between the Christian Heritage Party and the Marxist-Leninists! People are more likely to vote for the Rhinoceros Party than you!”
“But we’ve got some big names backing us up. David Suzuki is endorsing us.”
“!” I said. “The David Suzuki?” From what I knew about Adam’s past (the motorcycle gangs, Vancouver airport security, the atomic reactor he was forced to work in as a child, his night as prom queen, public radio, unswerving belief that the Edmonton Oilers will again the Stanley Cup in his lifetime), I considered that he might be delusional. But he sounded almost as sane as he ever was.
“Yes, yes, yes! David Suzuki! He endorsed us!”
“He did? I didn’t hear about it.”
“That’s because no one did! The press release went out yesterday morning, and only CBC radio went with it. Twice. No other media touched it.”
Ah, a media conspiracy of silence. We said nothing of it.

And then came Premier Clark’s so-called Sixty Days of Decision, wherein every day heralded a new attempt by the premier to bribe the electorate with its own money. Each day brought about a happy announcement from an exceedingly pleased Cabinet Minister. Hydro rates, tuition fees, insurance rates were all frozen, taxes were dropped, and money given away like the Apocalypse was Thursday. In six short weeks, Premier Clark made campaign promises totalling nearly a billion dollars.
“You gotta give Clark credit,” I said to Adam. “It takes balls to stand up there, give away all this money, and then say you’re not electioneering.”
“Oh, I know,” agreed Adam. “Clark is an excellent politician. He’s not campaigning – he’s seducing. It’s like he’s sneaking up behind you and cops a feel. At first you’re outraged, but then he starts talking, and then its ‘…Mr. Clark what are you doing back there? Oooh, Mr. Clark, please, I shouldn’t vote for you but, well, okay but… hey, you loosened my belt. Mr. Clark, I’m not sure what you want. You’ll promise me anything? Ooooh, yes, all right. Hey, my pants fell down. Hmmm? Sure, I’ll bend over—’ Only at this point, do you suddenly realize you’re getting screwed up the ass.”
“Well, he’s not the only one sniffing at that particular piece of your anatomy. Look at the Liberals. They’re promising a three billion cut in spending, taxes cut by 15%, but they’re going to increase health care funding by a billion dollars. Explain that one to me.”
“Simple. A politician said it.”

Next: Leers and Frothing -- The Final Chapter (unless Adam really does get elected): Adam on the Campaign Trail; Beers and Debauchery in Esquimalt; More Lies and Made-Up Facts; How To Run Hospitality at V-Con in Vancouver When You’re Running For Public Office in Victoria.

Click here for Part One
Click here for Part Three

Originally published in UNDER THE OZONE HOLE Number 14, June 1996

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