B.C. leaders lie low on legal highs ahead
Gordie Howe was known as Mr. Hockey, but that came much later in his life.
Among opposing players at the height of his career, however, Howe was known as Mr. Elbows for his dirty, vicious style. God help the man skating with his head down when Howe was on the ice.
Politics, like hockey, brings out teamwork, perseverance and sportsmanship, but also cruelty and cheap shots, especially during high-stakes games.
The Vancouver Canucks may be out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the current provincial election is filled with both fine politicking and brutal mudslinging.
The carefully crafted platforms, the orchestrated public events, the knowledge of local issues and the articulate performances at all-candidate debates are the stickhandling, skating, shooting and scoring of the election. The rumour mill, the personal jabs, the fearmongering, the lies and exaggerations, the grandstanding and the showboating are the interference, hooking, holding, highsticking, spearing and fighting of the election.
As in hockey, so it is in politics that the rough stuff is entertaining for the fans and there’s no path to victory without it.
Provincially, both campaigns are cheerfully churning out ads slagging individual candidates, particularly the party leaders.
News outlets are receiving a steady barrage of emails, encouraging reporters to ask candidates about Facebook posts comparing cops to Nazis, emails they sent dismissing racial and gender equity and off-the-cuff remarks they made to reporters that run contrary to the party platform.
In other words, it’s politics and electioneering as usual.
So far, this campaign is a carbon copy of the 2013 election.
The NDP had a strong first week, with leader John Horgan getting some good buzz about his balanced budget pledge and his promises to help renters and Lower Mainland drivers who have to pay a toll to use the Port Mann bridge.
Horgan’s version of a nifty backcheck to steal the puck was when he wondered why Surrey and Langley commuters are paying a premium to use the Port Mann, but commuters in Kelowna, and particularly in Christy Clark’s home riding of Kelowna West, aren’t paying to use the W.R. Bennett bridge over Okanagan Lake.
In 2013 and again last week, the Liberals started slow, focusing on their core supporters, getting them engaged through a combination of bragging about past accomplishments and inciting the NDP menace with a “remember the 1990s” warning.
It was only in the last two weeks of the 2013 campaign, which included the televised debate, where Clark and the Liberals got serious on a provincial level about attracting undecided voters.
That message boiled down to stressing Clark’s administrative competence and earnest caring about families while insisting now was not the time for change.
If the Liberals are simply dusting off the 2013 playbook, they may be in for a rude surprise in three weeks.
The status quo candidate preaching competence and caring in the 2015 Canadian federal election (Stephen Harper) and the 2016 U.S. federal election (Hillary Clinton, promising to continue Barack Obama’s legacy) were pushed aside by more inexperienced candidates with flimsy agendas of change, sunny ways and greatness again.
Campaigning provincial politicians have dozens of changes in mind for B.C., but they are scarcely talking about the major adjustment that’s coming, regardless of who wins the election.
For all the competing visions being outlined by provincial leaders, the federal government’s move to legalize marijuana is going to be the single biggest revamp on the social and political scene.
It was introduced last week and could be in effect by next summer (just in time to help cope with Peter Mansbridge’s retirement). Still, Liberal, NDP and Green campaigns have scarcely taken notice.
Even the B.C. Marijuana Party is staying mum. It looks as if after years of advocating for legalization, the party considers its work is done. It has just $35.61 in the bank, collected a scant $500 in donations last year and is running no candidates.
The general reluctance to acknowledge the big course change ahead is odd, considering B.C.’s stoner reputation. Political leaders in the birthplace of B.C. Bud should be honouring our heritage and buzzing with plans to celebrate it. But nobody seems to want to go near the issue.
B.C. is also sort of the birthplace of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s legislative package. It was in Kelowna, while he was running for leadership of the Liberal Party, that Trudeau first committed in an unprompted remark to what was introduced last week — full legalization.
The B.C. wing of the federal party prepared the ground months earlier, releasing a study highlighting all the great things that would happen if dope were legal. It would create jobs, taxation would raise billions for governments and revenues to organized crime would drop.
B.C. would particularly benefit through tourism, said the analysis.
“We’re known around the world for having good cannabis,” said the co-author.
Trudeau at the time was standing cautiously in favour of decriminalization. But the report criticized that stance, saying it would leave too much of the sector in the hands of criminals.
Then he moved from decriminalization to full legalization. He told reporters in B.C. his thinking had evolved and only full legalization would keep pot out of the hands of children. He said it was tougher for children to get cigarettes than pot, and the regulatory regime that would accompany legalization would help restrict it.
“Marijuana is not a health-food supplement. It’s not great for you. But it certainly — as many studies have shown — is not worse for you than cigarettes or alcohol.”
That line of thought eventually led to Bill C-45, “An Act Respecting Cannabis.”
It amends the Criminal Code to provide for legal production and consumption of cannabis, but most of the bill is a lengthy series of restrictions and bans on how legal dope can be sold and used.
For example, it forbids any packaging that “evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”
By the time the first legal baggies roll off the assembly line, they’ll look about as exciting as bales of hay.
And for all the talk about tourism, it bans promotion of cannabis through any means outside of Canada.
To mollify critics, a companion bill tightens criminal prosecution of impaired driving. But B.C. moved beyond that seven years ago, by imposing harsher penalties with a lower impairment threshold that’s outside the Criminal Code.
The number of formal alcohol-impaired charges has plummeted since then, as most cases are handled with the administrative sanctions. How that fits with new marijuanaimpairment tests to come has yet to be explained.
Provinces will still need hundreds more “drug-recognition experts” to police marijuana impairment. They need to set age limits and decide on government or private distribution, and will likely end up enforcing large chunks of the new regime.
Watching the federal-provincial argument over sharing all this new revenue from dope will be almost as entertaining as using it.
As many as 35 provincial officials are involved in a cannabis-legalization publicsafety committee that has been meeting periodically for the past year. But many of the minutes of their meetings that were released recently are blanked out. Just like the political leaders’ stances.
Les Leyne covers the legislature for the Victoria Times Colonist. Email: email@example.com.
The 2013 playbook worked for the Liberals not due to smarter strategy but because their candidates — and Clark in particular — campaigned as if they were the only ones who thought they had a shot at winning.
That’s a powerful motivation for success.
Four years ago, the Liberals campaigned hard and rough, employing tactics both fair and foul, to win the election. The NDP under Adrian Dix played a safe, defensive game and lost. What works and what
doesn’t seems clear.
The Gordie Howe hat trick is the nickname for when player scores a goal, assists on another goal and spends five minutes in the penalty box for fighting in the same game. It is hockey shorthand for doing whatever it takes to win.
Ironically, Howe only had two of them in a career that spanned six decades.
Rick Tochett, the current assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, did it 18 times — the most in NHL history.
Winning on the score sheet and winning with the gloves off. It makes for both exciting hockey and riveting politics.
Neil Godbout is managing editor of the Prince George Citizen.