Liberals play the numbers game

Why have four BC Liberal leadership candidates visited Kootenay West and Nelson-Creston, despite the fact both are NDP strongholds?

Why have four BC Liberal leadership candidates visited Kootenay West and Nelson-Creston, despite the fact both are NDP strongholds?

Ask them — namely Christy Clark, George Abbott, Mike DeJong, and Kevin Falcon — and you mostly get answers about the premier having to represent all parts of the province, and/or an acknowledgement that much of B.C.’s material wealth is generated in the hinterlands.

But there’s another key reason: it is precisely because these ridings have such a dearth of paid-up Liberals that makes them appealing campaign territory.

Proposed rules to be voted on by party members February 12 would give constituencies equal weight in choosing the new leader. Each would be worth 100 points, no matter how many members it has — 2,500 or less than 50.

Candidates would be accorded an equivalent number of points for whatever percentage of votes they capture from each riding membership, and then the points would be tallied.

Before Gordon Campbell’s resignation announcement last November, Kootenay West had 44 Liberal members — third lowest in the province — while Nelson-Creston had 208.

A modest number of sign-ups by a particular candidate in these ridings could change the balance of power in their favour, whereas the same number of sign-ups in a large riding would hardly cause a ripple. (The deadline for recruiting new members is today.)

But while all six leadership candidates support the equalized voting plan and are working under the assumption it will be adopted, things may still go sideways on them.

One-third of voting delgates could block the move, Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer wrote Saturday, “particularly if they see the switch as a way of empowering riding associations in places where the party is weak at the expense of those places where it is strong.”

In which case, Clark, Abbott, DeJong, and Falcon may wish they hadn’t bothered with their West Kootenay swings.

Relatively recent arrivals to Nelson may not realize that last week’s change-of-command ceremony illustrated how far the city’s police department has come in the last 30 years.

Chief Dan Maluta, like his immediate predecessor Ron Brock, retired after long service.

It wasn’t always so. In the 1970s, as the crime rate soared, three chiefs were either fired or forced to quit. The first two were blamed for low morale on the force, although they responded that poor working conditions had more to do with it.

The police then operated out of the decrepit provincial jail, where the White Building now stands, before moving temporarily above a tire shop and then to the lower levels of the regional district building — the present Salvation Army. (They have been in their current headquarters since the early 1990s.)

However, the force’s very nadir was reached in 1980 when a chief admitted to defrauding several local banks and was sentenced to six months in jail.

While there have been no shortage of more recent police controversies, the department’s darkest days are long behind it. Under the last few chiefs, it has enjoyed enviable stability.