Rothenburger: B.C. Tories promise change, but what?

Mel Rothenburger / Kamloops Daily News
November 29, 2012 01:00 AM

The B.C. Conservatives add something to the democratic process. I'm just not sure what it is.

When it comes to picking a government, the broader the choice, the better. Right now, though, with the clock ticking toward the next provincial election, we have a two-party system, which is too bad - a lot of British Columbians would be thrilled to have an alternative to the Liberals and NDP.

If the B.C. Tories could stop fighting among themselves, and if they would share with us what they stand for, it would help.

Their 12-per-cent approval rating is a pretty good indication of what they're up against. Maybe the Conservatives have been out of the game so long they don't know how it's played. After all, it's been more than 60 years since they had any meaningful role in the politics of the province.

Only a handful of Conservative candidates have been named. Even the Greens and independents are ahead.

While the Liberals and NDP long ago picked their Kamloops standard bearers, the Conservatives have yet to nominate anybody here.

When I mused about the party's listlessness more than a couple of months ago, regional organizer Alan Forseth indignantly lectured me that "we are moving forward on our timetable, not yours." Candidates would be nominated in October.

It's now November, and the Tories won't hold nomination meetings here until well into the new year. After I reminded him of this the other day, Forseth explained it was all about giving potential candidates time to become known.

To whom? The two mainstream parties are hard at it. Todd Stone, who wants to succeed Kevin Krueger as MLA in Kamloops South, is running as if the election is Christmas Day. He even put his campaign vehicle in last weekend's Santa parade (cheesy, but a sign that no "stone" will be left unturned).

The Conservative candidates, on the other hand, will have a scant three months to establish name recognition, policy awareness and credibility to govern.

In the interests of disclosure, I confess that Peter Sharp is a friend of mine. I respect his opinions, even though we disagree on just about any political issue I can think of. But this is about party politics, and about party leadership.

Sharp is the first person to apply for nomination as the Tory candidate in Kamloops South; nobody seems interested in Kamloops North. Even a good civic campaign takes a year of planning and action, but the B.C.

Conservatives hereabouts are moving at the speed of a parcel through Canada Post.

Maybe it's because they haven't figured out what they stand for. Neither have I. Don't tell me it's all on the website - what you'll find there is that Liberals are bad, Conservatives are good. The Tories want "student-based education" (radical), "the highest standards of integrity and transparency," and "equality of opportunity."

Presumably the Liberals and NDP don't.

As leader John Cummins says, the Conservatives stand "firmly on the side of change." Excellent. Political biographer Lawrence Martin wrote on the very first page of his insightful book Harperland that change is the eternal clichÉ trotted out by politicians.

The question is, what kind of change? The B.C. Conservatives are running out of time to explain what they stand for, not just what they stand against.

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