B.C. lead­ers lie low on le­gal highs ahead

The Daily Courier - - NEWS - LES LEYNE

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: lleyne@times­colonist.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.

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