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Iain Hunter: B.C. election outcome is all about trust

Premier Christy Clark launches her re-election campaign today on television and it behooves B.C. voters to tune her in — at least, the few who’ll bother to cast their ballots on May 14.

Premier Christy Clark launches her re-election campaign today on television and it behooves B.C. voters to tune her in — at least, the few who’ll bother to cast their ballots on May 14.

Political observers far wiser than I have predicted this is likely to be her last hurrah. They’ve raised the possibility that we voters may push the B.C. Liberals off the pedestal that they mounted a dozen years ago.

So while the focus will be on Clark for the next month, as is usual during election campaigns, shrewd electors will be considering whether it’s time to abandon this agglomerate of federal Liberals, federal Conservatives and a Social Credit rump and throw us, again, to the mercies of the socialist hordes for a bit.

This may well require for the B.C. Liberals, if not a period of renewal, at least a rebranding. Names like the Party of Peace and Plenty, United Prosperity Front or Alliance of the Great Majority might be found appropriate.

Some quail at the prospect of another New Democratic government and the tax-and-spend regime it would bring in. Others, grudgingly perhaps, will have concluded that this government hasn’t lived up to the reputation it once claimed as managers of the economy.

The HST, which flew under the cabinet’s radar — the old kind fuelled by coal oil, apparently — sticks in many minds, not so much because it benefited business more than consumers but because the radar operators with smoke-blackened faces sprang it on us after promising not to.

The government also suffered from a stupid law that allowed voters to express their anger in a non-binding referendum, and an even stupider decision by the current premier that made its result binding.

I rather suspect, too, that the heat the B.C. Liberals have turned against them by allowing deficits, in violation of another silly law that they produced, is largely a matter of bad bookkeeping. W.A.C. Bennett, whose budgets were works of inspired obfuscation, knew the value of “contingent liabilities.”

Adrian Dix, beginning what some seem to regard as a Marxist dance of the dialectic, has taken off only a couple of the seven veils that he will shed during the election campaign. He has predicted three years of deficits, but balanced books just about in time for the next election campaign.

I don’t know why he, or any other party leader, would be driven to make predictions of what’s to come in future years and make them sound like promises — especially ones with priorities that will be expensive to honour.

What economic straits British Columbians, like other Canadians, must navigate depends on things like drought in far-away grainfields, taxes in Greece, the dim sums of the Chinese economy and the antics of a Baby Dear Leader brandishing missiles that probably don’t work.

The fortunes of governments worldwide depend as much on accidents as on secret agendas. They’re determined, as former British prime minister Harold Macmillan is said to have observed, on “events, dear boy, events.”

That’s why political leaders and parties should avoid committing themselves to what might be unattainable. For that engenders distrust in an electorate. And the ability to trust is so much what the B.C. electorate craves just now.

A lot of New Democratically inclined voters likely would prefer to vote for a leader without a taint of skulduggery. Dix, set on the high road in this campaign, once backdated a memo to keep his boss, then-premier Glen Clark, out of trouble.

That was 14 years ago, but that albatross still clings to his political neck.

The Clark we have now has lesser birds about her person. One of them she could have cast off long ago.

She’s been found not to have been in conflict of interest as a minister when the B.C. Rail sale was discussed in cabinet. Yet she refuses to put the derailed court case back on the tracks.

She’s going to campaign well; it’s what she does best. Beside her, Dix may seem dour, but his heart shows.

What will swing the pendulum? Trust, dear boy, trust.