Nicholl: Liberal’s new leader could appeal to more left- and rightwingers


ast weekend, while chatting with some friends in the Lower Mainland about who might be the next Liberal leader, one of them said she liked George Abbott.

Her husband chimed in, “Yeah, they should elect him. I think he’d do a good job.”

I looked carefully at him for a hint of sarcasm.

“Really?” I asked.

For as long as I’d known him, he has lived and breathed the NDP. If he wasn’t forced to, I don’t think he’d even drive on the right side of the road, he’s such a leftie. Entrenched, devout and sign-waving is he.

“I know. He’s almost good enough to be in the NDP,” he replied.

I had never really thought about Abbott bringing in the left side of the spectrum. He isn’t as conservative as the other candidates, but I don’t see him crossing over to directly woo the NDP anytime soon.

Still, it made me think.

Personally, I’d prefer George Abbott at the helm, as opposed to the others. He exudes the stability and conciliatory approach the province could use. But, maybe I under estimated his draw. Quite likely, if he becomes the Liberal leader, ergo premier, he could yank in a fair number of on-the-fence NDPers. 

As well, without much of a choice further to the right, most of the stronger conservative members would still stay with the Liberals.

That means the Liberals have a chance to draw in a wider spectrum and could really increase their market share. It’s a strategy the Liberals might want to think about.

More importantly though, it’s valuable to weigh which candidate would be the best overall for B.C.

While Abbott isn’t as flashy or photogenic as the others, he carries that Joe Clark-type respect from his colleagues, the public and the media. 

But, unlike Clark who was quite young when he governed Canada, Abbott has a longer legacy in the cat-fight that B.C. politics can sometimes be and is not likely to get flustered as a leader.

He faces a tough style challenge from his competitors.

Kevin Falcon is further to the right. He comes across as confident, feisty and the fellow to get things done. 

We tend to like that in a leader. He’s been compared to Premier Gordon Campbell, which could work against him, but he hasn’t tried to distinctly distance himself from the old guard.

Christy Clark, on the other hand, has noted the difference strongly. It’s easy to do, coming from outside the government. 

She has the advantage of charm, distance and the title of deputy premier. 

Her political past isn’t as long and she certainly had mixed reviews as minister of education, but that was a while ago and people forget.

Mike de Jong hasn’t been much of a presence in the race, but he could have some influence on the outcome of the race by swaying his followers in a certain direction for the second name on the ballot.

It’s unlikely we will know after the first ballot numbers are counted who our next premier will be. 

It may be decided by the second or third picks on the slate. 

As we saw in the federal Liberal leadership race when Stephane Dion came out on top after a weaker first ballot, anything can happen.

It’s a close race and any of the top three could take it.

Another factor that’s not visible is how many new Liberal memberships came through with the intention of voting for a certain candidate. 

This is not a provincial election in which everyone qualified can vote. 

The Liberal leadership requires your membership. Thus, the outcome may not be what B.C. in general might want, but who was diligent in signing up the most members.

Since this element is so crucial, it’s no wonder we’ve heard about not-so-stellar practises in signing up members.

By Saturday night, we’ll know the name of our new premier.

I wonder if my friends on the coast will be cracking champagne or crying in their beer.

Shelley Nicholl owns Mad Squid Ink, a professional writing service.


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