WHEN then-premier Mike Harcourt's government was engulfed in scandal and controversy in the mid-1990s, speculation began to build on whether he could hang on as leader.
There was mounting tension within the NDP caucus over his leadership, but no one was speaking out publicly about that elephant in the room. At the time, an NDP cabinet minister told me: "There's blood in the water, but so far no sharks."
Well, there is blood in the water once again when it comes to an NDP leader's hold on the job, and there are indeed sharks in the party who smell that blood. Ironically, Harcourt is now one of those sharks.
Harcourt has become the latest in a growing crowd of NDP notables calling on embattled NDP leader Adrian Dix to step down. He told the Globe and Mail's Gary Mason it was time for him to go, and his public criticism puts even more pressure on Dix to throw in the towel.
Former NDP cabinet ministers Ian Waddell and Bob Williams (both once close to Dix), ex-party president Sav Dhaliwal, and former MLAs David Schreck and Guy Gentner preceded Harcourt in calling on Dix to quit.
Interestingly and perhaps more telling is that no NDP notable, past or present, has publicly called on Dix to stay on as leader. His own caucus has offered only tepid support for him, with members saying they are confident Dix will "reflect" on his situation and "come to a decision."
Even one of his closest associates, MLA John Horgan, would not say out loud that Dix should stay as leader in a lengthy scrum with reporters at the end of the recent legislature session. While Horgan didn't exactly throw Dix under the bus, he parked it close by.
Now Harcourt has moved that bus even nearer.
Unless key people in the party start issuing public calls for Dix to continue, it won't be long before he pulls the plug himself.
Dix's leadership is bleeding, and sharks like Harcourt and others are starting to fill up the NDP pool.
The board of directors at B.C. Ferries has once again displayed a key flaw in the model the B.C. Liberals came up with to govern the company soon after the 2001 election.
The board has approved large salary hikes and bonuses for senior executives, even though the provincial government is about to reduce service levels on many of its routes while at the same time increasing the taxpayer subsidy to the company.
The strange private/public hybrid that is B.C. Ferries is trying to have it both ways: insisting on operating as a private entity, yet sticking its hand into the public trough, looking for more cash.
The board has long argued it models the company on private sector companies, and not Crown corporations.
Yet no other "private" company gets a subsidy of close to $200 million a year from the provincial government. Without that subsidy, the company would have to make massive service cuts or it would, on paper, suffer a huge monetary loss.
So the board's directors (who also created controversy a few years ago for paying themselves much higher fees than any other Crown's board) have made a politically tone-deaf decision that many frustrated ferry users will undoubtedly unfavourably contrast with constantly rising fares and looming service cuts.
The company's private/public model has made Transportation Minister Todd Stone look weak, as he's expressed dissatisfaction with the bonuses yet appears powerless to do anything about it (which is a bizarre situation for a cabinet minister to be in when you consider how much money his government gives to that company each year).
If the B.C. Ferries board keeps making decisions that blow back politically on the provincial government, don't be surprised if that government changes the model for the company yet again.
The current model was created on Gordon Campbell's watch. Premier Christy Clark has shown a willingness to revisit other Campbell legacies (raising both the minimum wage and corporate taxes, for example) and she may take another look at this one as well.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.
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