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The line between political vision and nightmare

As a reporter covering many election campaigns, I used to interview taxi drivers and barbers to get a sense of who was ahead. Well, I don't get out much any more, so haven't had many opportunities to chat up taxi drivers during the B.C. campaign.

As a reporter covering many election campaigns, I used to interview taxi drivers and barbers to get a sense of who was ahead.

Well, I don't get out much any more, so haven't had many opportunities to chat up taxi drivers during the B.C. campaign. And my barber told me to mind my own business when I was in his chair last.

So I've fallen back on counting lawn signs in my neighbourhood. They indicate that College Pro Painters have a pretty good chance.

I can imagine some people have stopped reading in disgust by now. They probably feel that trivia has no place in the serious business of electing governments for purportedly fixed terms.

But politics in many ways is a trivial pursuit, as some of what's been reported and as some of the questions asked by pollsters show.

Our Dear Leader seems to get into trouble when he shows his lighter side. When he tossed a loonie to that paramedic on strike in Vernon last week and told him "don't spend it all in one place," he thought he was being funny.

Dear Leader should have remembered, though, that union officials don't think anything's funny. They're not allowed to. Socialists, Davie Barrett aside, don't laugh much.

So they've tried to turn this into an example of Dear Leader's insensitivity to the problems faced by ordinary folks.

I know he has a lighter side: I've heard him say "Howdy." How patronizing can that be?

And how can it be patronizing for the premier of a province to tell someone who's never had his job, but wants it, that it's a difficult one? We've been aware of that, or should have been, for about eight years now.

On matters environmental and matters aboriginal, in providing for the sick, the elderly, children and all those for whom the state is the ultimate caregiver, this Liberal government has forged ahead one way, only to reverse and come straight back like the old hand-operated speeders on that railway it sold off.

It has looked, sometimes, as if the goal is not so much to get somewhere as it is to stay on the tracks.

Gordon Campbell's statement to Carole James during that exchange during a televised debate that "this is a big job and it's hard to get a handle on it" has been called patronizing.

It wasn't: It was a confession, an admission that after eight years his is a government still enrolled in an on-the-job training course, and needs another four-year term to get certification.

The student has produced some pretty impressive works that address the structural needs of the enterprise, but there's human hurt among the shavings and discarded bits on the workshop floor.

Never mind, there's still the vision thing that pollsters think so important and on which James seems to be making headway.

Campbell's still ahead, apparently, but where does vision become just a dream, or a nightmare?

What of First Nations who are accustomed, more, to visions of the past?

What of those who measure trees in other ways than board feet and log tonnes?

What of those who prefer the sunny bays and misted inlets as they are now to a vision that's blind to the risk of environmental disaster carried from Alberta's sump hole?

I wonder, too, how much vision should trump present-day problems given the state of our, and everybody's, economy and our fixation on getting something that we're unwilling to pay for.

I know James, whose job has been to oppose with a capital O, will find it hard, too, to get a handle on the job she seeks.

But where's the evidence that she can do what Campbell hasn't, with balanced budgets and "while putting more money in people's pockets?"

The latest CTV/ Globe and Mail opinion survey gives us a choice between a premier who inspires the most confidence in us even though we don't believe or trust him as much as the NDP leader, and the NDP leader who understands our problems best but isn't as decisive or strong as Dear Leader to tackle them.

Not such a trivial matter, after all.