B.C. imports American-style politics

The B.C. Liberal attack ads on fightin' fisherman John Cummins go after his pension and his policies, and the website made him look like one of the aliens from Mars Attacks! In fact the whole B.C. political scene is starting to look like a bad movie from the 1990s.

Cummins Attacks! The B.C. Liberal attack radio ads and website go after the new B.C. Conservative leader's pension

Cummins Attacks! The B.C. Liberal attack radio ads and website go after the new B.C. Conservative leader's pension

VICTORIA – The Americanization of Canadian and B.C. politics is gathering speed now that legislated four-year terms are finally settling in at the federal and provincial level.

Scheduled elections are an important reform, but the downside is that they seem to lead inexorably to constant campaigning. The latest example is the B.C. Liberal Party’s website and radio campaign directed at upstart B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins.

“Strange days indeed,” NDP leader Adrian Dix mused on his Facebook page. “The Liberals, after a week of nasty attacks on the NDP, launched an anti-John Cummins website. Absent a policy agenda, the Liberals seem to want to blame others for their problems. This too will backfire as Ms. Clark is again misreading the public mood. People are demanding substance in politics these days, not photo ops and negative attacks.”

I see nothing strange in Dix rushing to the defence of Cummins, who represents the NDP’s best hope for a move into the legislature’s west wing. It is a bit odd for Dix to accuse others of lacking policy, as he leads a party that has been distinguished by little other than negative political tactics since its near-death experience in 2001.

This is almost as strange as the B.C. Liberals damning Cummins as a politician who “says one thing and does another.” Yeah, that can really come back to bite you.

There hasn’t been much of an anti-Dix effort yet, but you can be sure there is one sitting on the shelf, prepared for Clark’s recently-abandoned fall election plan. The “nasty attacks” Dix complained about were focused on his federal party’s sudden preference for Quebec seats in the House of Commons, and sniping about which Premier Clark hired more political staff – Christy or Glen?

And it was the NDP who started the negative cycle with their own TV ad, featuring “Campbell Crunch” and “Christy Crunch” cereals, both “loaded with HST.”

(I can put to rest the ghastly rumour that the B.C. Liberal war room will soon unleash a gang of angry, unemployed HST stick-men.)

The U.S. tactic of going negative early, to define your rivals before they can define themselves, has worked spectacularly for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. They scorched federal Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, and public distaste for these methods does not seem to have hurt them. The anti-Cummins campaign has a similar style, and there are indications that it may have been produced in Toronto.

The website initially used a bug-eyed photo of the former fisherman-MP that made him look like a ray gun-wielding alien from the movie Mars Attacks. In fact our whole political scene is starting to look like a rerun of a bad 1990s movie.

It was Reform BC that rose from the ashes of Social Credit, and inspired a desperate Gordon Campbell to sing country music and take a hard line on aboriginal relations, to stitch the ruptured right back together.

Cummins defined himself as a Reform-Alliance-Conservative MP by railing against treaties, and that continues to be the core of his thin policy book. His other two main ideas are also pure rural populism. He vows to scrap the carbon tax and suggests that municipalities should cut their costs to fund transit.

Voters will have a better idea by the end of this week if Clark’s plan for “defending and creating jobs” is really new policy, or merely more photo ops.

B.C. has had its first taste of California-style tax revolt. Now we have two years ahead that will be dominated by relentlessly negative, continuous campaigning.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

Follow me on twitter @tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Hells Angels prospect from Sooke to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar is closing its doors until further notice after sexual assault allegations against an employee surfaced on social media. (Google Streetview)
Sexual assault allegations temporarily closing a second Victoria restaurant

Social media posts accuse an E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar employee of sexual assault

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Shiromali Krishnaraj arrives from India and receives a mandatory COVID-19 test at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. B.C.’s approved rapid tests also use a nasal swab, with a machine to scan for COVID-19 antibodies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s rapid COVID-19 tests have produced only two positive results

Tests deployed for exposures in schools, outbreaks in care homes, jails

BC Emergency Health Services confirmed that a call was received just before 10 a.m. Ground paramedics, as well as an air ambulance, are on the way to the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BREAKING: Helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The Nanaimo bar display at the Nanaimo Museum. (City of Nanaimo Instagram)
City of Nanaimo points to correct recipe after New York Times botches batch of bars

City addresses ‘controversy’ around dessert square’s layers

A man holds a picture of Chantel Moore during a healing gathering at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. First Nation demands transparency in probe into second fatal RCMP shooting

‘Police have killed more Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members than COVID’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Most Read