Martyn Brown: Get ready for the Big Bang, B.C.

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      The Big Bang: get ready for it British Columbia. We are now only two days away from B.C.’s first NDP government in 16 years.

      You can watch it live here at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, as incoming premier John Horgan unveils his new cabinet. Should be quite the spectacle.

      Horgan is a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory. The TV show, that is, as distinct from the cosmological model.

      Then again, the latter might help explain our unfolding political universe.

      A long, long time ago—maybe 13 billion years ago—there was nothing but unity. Our entire political reality was so dense, any difference that existed couldn’t escape itself.

      Ah, the good, old days that never were. Its eternal blessing was total darkness. Ignorance was bliss.

      And then…the Big Bang.

      Philosophy! Enlightenment! Infinite space for ideas of matter.

      And voila! Politics was born: the cosmic art of making something out of nothing. It’s what happens when political energy runs amok.

      Ideology simply uncorked itself, creating disparate galaxies of dubious distinction—those random structures of atomized concerns we now know as “parties”.

      You don’t need a Hubble telescope to understand they have been moving faster away from us, driven by so much dark energy.

      All of them are but temporal coalitions, held together by the gravity of partisan dark matter—those invisible particles of doubt, fear, loathing, and mistrust that politicians tap to foster faith in their light and promise.

      That’s it in a nutshell, the political Big Bang theory: the unbridling of intelligence, swirling endlessly for no one, in an ever-expanding universe that is defined by division. Which, in these Trumpian times, has accelerated with singular stupidity and is still way too hot for the common good.

      Enter John Horgan, a man who hopes to bring new sense and order to our political cosmos.

      Long, gone is Gordon Campbell’s New Era. Going, going—gone is Christy Clark’s Gassy Eon.

      Lo! the Horgan epoch: The Great Cooling. An unspecified period that he assures us will be marked by more harmonious progress. 

      An admitted sci-fi geek, here’s how Horgan recently articulated his envisioned new world order to help the GreeNDP alliance live long and prosper, drawing inspiration from the Big Bang theory.

      “Although I feel passionately about what I ran on, when it is part of a government package, I think we can all find the parts that we want to support. And if we disagree, it will not be, and it should not be, the end of the world.

      “As you know, families sometimes disagree. I oftentimes have to grapple with the remote control to make sure that I can watch The Big Bang Theory because my spouse can't stand Sheldon, but we work it out. We work it out. I appreciate that's a small issue for many people, but that is, I think, representative of the challenges that we all face. We're not always going to agree.”

      Hear, hear. Now go practise what you preach. Let there be light and the material contrasts that that affords, as a better way to move forward, enriched by greater diversity of perspective and mutual understanding!

      OK, that need not include Clark’s apologists. Screw them as they would have screwed you, I say. They have proven they are beyond redemption.

      The Liberals would have British Columbians believe that the NDP’s one-seat majority is as tenuous as a supernova—a dying star that won’t last long and that is for all intents and purposes, dead already.

      Fortunately, the lieutenant-governor rejected that interpretation, choosing to instead inform Clark that it was, in fact, her government that was defunct. We have Judith Guichon to thank for allowing that new light on the horizon to shine, however long it lasts.

      Actually, I’m wondering if she might also be a fan of The Big Bang Theory. Perhaps she saw this marvelous dissertation from Sheldon on Schrodinger's cat.

      Watch this clip of Sheldon speaking about Schrodinger's cat.

      The lesson we can draw from it is that we shouldn’t assume that the GreeNDP alliance is a dead cat already, by dint of its potentially lethal circumstances.

      If you can’t watch the short clip, here’s Sheldon: “In 1935, Erwin Schrödinger—in an attempt to explain the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics—proposed an experiment where a cat [is] placed in a box with a sealed vial of poison that will break open at a random time. Now, since no one knows when or if the poison has been released until the box is opened, the cat can be thought of as both alive and dead.”

      Sure, that GreeNDP life-force might be poisoned at any time. But Guichon is betting that it might just as likely survive. We can’t know until we actually see how things develop.

      And on the strength of that promise, hope hangs in the balance.

      I, for one, am hoping that Horgan will also opt for the big bang theory approach to governing, which B.C.’s first NDP premier Dave Barrett embraced eons ago, back in 1972-75.

      His short-lived government set so many mostly positive changes and structures in motion, history still gasps in disbelief. They forever shaped the world we now take for granted, as they continue to advance its social progress and shape our future.

      As much as any premier, before or since, Barrett demonstrated in his brief tenure how and why government matters: because it is uniquely empowered to not only offer and build hope, but to also bring hope alive by making its substance material.

      Talk about a big bang. Barrett exploded into action, doing more in three years than Christy Clark did in twice that time.

      His biggest gift to B.C. was arguably the creation of the Agricultural Land Reserve. It saved us from a fate of unchecked urban sprawl and an incalculable loss of farmland, which would have devastated so much of what continues to distinguish Super, Natural B.C. as a globally envied gem.

      Yet Barrett did so much more than that, as John Horgan’s new chief of staff, Geoff Meggs, and his co-author, Rod Mickleburgh, wrote in their excellent book. For another great account of that adminstration, read Lorne Kavic and Garry Nixon’s book The 1200 Days, A Shattered Dream.

      Barrett didn’t hold power for its own sake, as Clark did; he used it for public good. Often with bold abandon. He risked his political capital to achieve great things for our province.

      The labour code and the labour relations board; ICBC; our modern income assistance system; a more accountable legislative assembly, with Hansard transcripts and daily question periods; postsecondary student financial assistance; B.C.’s first real campaign finance reporting system; the B.C. ambulance service; Pharmacare; the B.C. human rights code; rent controls and the Rentalsman office; child care subsidies; and legal aid—all of it, and much, much more, was unleashed by Dave Barrett’s big bang.

      He created more new parks in three years than had been created in the previous 20 years. He gave all British Columbians the basic right to sue their government for its wrongdoings—a tool that the BCTF so effectively used to win its constitutional victory for B.C. teachers and students alike.

      On average, Barrett’s government passed a new law every three days—367 of them, in all. You can do that with a massive majority.

      Eat your heart, John Horgan. Passing even a fraction as many bills will be challenging with a one-seat advantage.

      Clearly, his government will have to be more creative with its legislative agenda, opting for fewer pieces of largely enabling legislation and more omnibus bills.

      It will need to limit opportunities for Liberal filibusters and minimize as far as possible the number of deciding votes that the NDP speaker will be obliged to cast in passing laws.

      Nevertheless, the sheer scope of the GreeNDP action agenda is so huge, it won’t allow the Horgan administration to take the more cautious and incremental approach that the Harcourt government took. Which is a good thing, because in contrast to Barrett’s legacy, it is mostly remembered for dithering, devoted as Harcourt was to seeking consensus where none was to be found.

      That’s not to say it didn’t accomplish a lot. It did. Especially in terms of land-use planning, the expansion of parks and protected areas, and environmental management.

      Yet the evolutionary approach that premiers Harcourt, Miller, and Dosanjh adopted was in the long run less impactful than the revolutionary approach that B.C.’s most important premiers have taken. Among whom, I would include my old boss, who also had an eye to the long game that served his party well politically.

      John Horgan campaigned in rainy April with an umbrella; little did he know that large swaths of land would be on fire by the time he assumed office.

      For Horgan, time is of the essence. He will have to go big and go fast, as Dave Barrett did and as Glen Clark also tried to do with his scant majority, while also learning from their mistakes, most of which were attitudinal in nature. The latter could have been one of B.C.’s truly great premiers, in my opinion, had he simply adopted a more collegial tone, as he was probably among the smartest and most skilled communicators ever to hold that office in our province.

      Gordon Campbell learned the hard way in government that tone is easily as material to success as substance. His tonal shift after his “Maui incident” was key to his party’s reelection in 2005 and 2009.

      By contrast, the two premiers Clark—Glen and Christy—were both too self-assured, unnecessarily oppositional and polarizing, and utterly devoted to wedge-politics-as-war.

      The words “humility”, “contrition”, and “sorry” were simply not in their dictionary.

      Horgan would do well to put his trust in British Columbians’ capacity for forgiveness and understanding. Voters respect honest, decisive leadership, laced with humility, that is undaunted by the political risks of endeavouring to execute worthy aspirations.

      They appreciate leaders who own up to their errors of policy and judgement, if it is apparent that their hearts and their public priorities are mostly in the right place. I suspect that Horgan understands that very well indeed.

      I expect he will rapidly demonstrate that he is the real deal: a reluctant leader who only became our premier because he dared to stand up for needed progress when others didn’t, wouldn’t, or couldn’t. A leader who has all the ingredients necessary to be a very successful premier: vision, aptitude, intelligence, experience, street smarts, guts, conviction, relatability, integrity, a personable and likable nature, and a flair for grassroots communication.

      He will be well-assisted by his capable senior advisers and his eclectic and well-qualified elected team, including his two immediate predecessors, Adrian Dix and Carole James.

      Both of those former NDP leaders had their own style and strengths.

      Their very different assets were obviously not quite enough to successfully see them through the crucible of their campaigns, into the premier’s office. But they will certainly imbue their new government with an unprecedented bench strength of proven leadership that will be invaluable to it and to all of their colleagues.

      I applaud them both for sticking to their guns and staying the course, to advance the broader enterprise that they will now so directly effect, as leaders in Horgan’s cabinet. 

      They, too, made a big bang for the social democratic values that allowed the NDP’s star to prevail, when so many predicted it would sputter out, following the 2001 election.

      They both deserve a thunderous ovation on Tuesday, as they are called upon to move their ideas into action, in whatever ministries they are asked to lead.

      The Big Bang: it is such a wonderfully evocative onomatopoeic misnomer for the beginning of space and time. It actually occurred without a sound, precisely because neither of those phenomena previously existed.

      As we learned from the movie Aliens, in space no one can hear you scream. The B.C. Liberals are about to discover that, as they float across the far reaches of the legislature, still stranded in suspended disbelief.

      Already they are apparently pointing fingers at each other, and mostly at their wholly discredited figurehead.

      Journalist Bob Mackin has reported that Peter Fassbender (above) blamed Christy Clark for the B.C. Liberals ending up in opposition.

      Another big bang silently transpired last week in Vancouver and Surrey, as theBreaker’s Bob Mackin exclusively divulged. Although none of the mainstream media reported it, it could spell the beginning of the end for that dying comet known as Christy Clark.

      It seems she was royally shredded by senior party members and various former cabinet ministers, staffers, lobbyists, and other disgruntled acolytes, for plunging her party back into the void of opposition.

      Ah, how fickle fortuna can be in a Machiavellian cosmos without virtù. 

      She has fallen so far, so fast. It already seems like light years since former Vancouver mayor and then newly elected MLA, Sam Sullivan, so famously basked in her glow with those immortal words: "I'm stunned. All I can say is Christy Clark is a god. She made a miracle."

      Big bang be damned. As her sad cosmos unfolds, it seems she may be destined to go out with a whimper. Her orbit ain’t what it used to be and it won’t hold together for long, is my guess.

      In the meantime, John Horgan would be wise to heed the Buddha’s eternal guidance: “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”

      On Tuesday, his party will at least avoid the second of those pitfalls, and all I can say is, hallelujah.

      Like the song goes, “this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.” Sing it, N-dippers. You earned this moment. Let it resonate across Canada with clarion force.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, and he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact Brown at