Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The new year promises a bounty of punditry in B.C.

Liberal leadership contender Mike de Jong shows off his famous Christmas shortbread cookies.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
December 29, 2010


This city has as many pundits as tourists. You can hardly turn a corner without bumping into a pontificating sage expounding on the conventional wisdom.

The word pundit is borrowed from the Hindi pandit, which stems from the Sanskrit pandita, meaning learned. Pundits are wise men and the British Columbia capital is more fortunate than Bethlehem, which had to make do with just three.

I am not an opinion columnist, which is good, since my opinion doesn’t hold sway in my own household. But with the new year promising a pair of leadership conventions, a possible provincial election, and a likely federal campaign, one cannot help but wish to get on the bandwagon. A bounty of punditry beckons.

Over the yuletide, I mistook the drama A Christmas Carol for a documentary on the recent tribulations of the B.C. Liberal party. Asked to contribute to the welfare of the destitute, Ebenezer Scrooge’s infamous reply is, “Are there no prisons?” Tis a sentiment to warm the heart of Gordon Campbell, who has offered the poorest of the working poor no raise since 2001. The minimum wage, frozen at $8 for a decade, remains as untouched as a miser’s heart.

The candidates to replace the grinchy premier have gone all Ghost-of-Jacob-Marley. After years of silence, the Liberal penitents now insist the minimum wage, the lowest in the land, must be raised forthwith.

It has been a rough year for the Liberals, who watched in horror as a mob carrying torches and wielding pitchforks stormed canvassers to sign a petition. The signatures of some 700,000 voters forced the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives to refer a draft bill called the HST Extinguishment Act to the acting chief electoral officer, who prepared the wording for a referendum question. Only in Canada are revolutions handed over to legislative committees and bureaucrats.

An anti-tax fervor did bring back from exile disgraced former premier Bill Vander Zalm, the former owner of a roadside attraction whose sale of said property involved a bundle of $20,000 in cash in a paper bag in a swanky hotel room. The revival of the Vander Zombie was only part of the bad news for the Liberals, who also suffered through the criminal trial of two aides.

After the operatives pleaded guilty to charges of corruption, the premier said it was a case of “severe misjudgment and personal indiscretion.” He asked the province to be forgiving. Whoops. Sorry. That’s what he said after he was arrested for drunk driving in Hawaii. As for David Basi and Bob Virk, Mr. Campbell said, “These people are criminals. They acted criminally. They breached the public trust. They took personal benefits.” As punishment, they got another benefit, as the government picked up the $6-million tab for their legal defence.

Some pundits want a public inquiry into the BC Rail scandal. The Liberal contenders are unanimous in echoing Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes: “I see nothing. I was not here. I did not even get up this morning!”

The leadership contest gained attention when Mike de Jong suggested lowering the voting age to 16. This led one white-haired pundit to complain that teenagers think the HST is an STD. (That’s an unfair stereotype. Teens are aware of the tax every time they purchase alcohol with a fake ID.) You damn kids, get off my lawn sign.

At least the Liberals have candidates for their leadership contest.

An anarcho-syndicalist minority in the NDP caucus, led by Hothead Harry Lali and Et Tu Jenny Kwan, executed a putsch of leader Carole James earlier this month. We’re three weeks into the contest and apparently no one wants the job. You’d think they were offering minimum wage.

In the spirit of the season, I checked out a video posted by Mr. de Jong, who took a break from his Open Mike tour to show off his culinary skills by making shortbread cookies.

“It’s important to lead, but it’s also important to listen,” he says without irony at the midway point of a 12-minute, 36-second monologue.

One of his cooking tips: “You can mask a lot of imperfections with sprinkles.”

That explains why politics is flashy and colourful, but ultimately empty calories.

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