Clark could lose - you read it here first

BLOATED with vanity for having shocked millions with my accurate May 14 election soothsaying, I now recklessly sooth more:

Premier Christy Clark will be humiliated by a very narrow win - grab a long-odds bet that she will actually lose - the July 10 Westside-Kelowna byelection. She's riding for a fall. A big kick in the seat. Little punning there. Oh, you got that.

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Obvious though they are, even to the experts, let me count the ways:

First, The Desperate Revengers: The butterfingers New Democrats, who complacently let their poll-topping lead slip away while taking the high-minded road, and the B.C. Conservatives, who never got their act together and got the hook without filling a single seat, are eating their guts out over the Liberals' "Well, that was easy" knockout. They can't get even. But they can get off the mat, bloody a nose on the way to the dressing room, and restore some respect.

It hardly needs saying (a peculiar idiom - if so, why say it?) that Adrian Dix and John Cummins are scanning the help-wanted ads. They need a strong showing if they have a hope of keeping their jobs. Dix's (new, surely) strategic team will drop the Marquis of Queensberry rules and throw every rabbit punch, knee in the groin and thumb in the eye the NDP can get away with. Anyway, that's my advice.

Second, The Sideliners: Clark sucked votes - and goosed some chronically lazy/ indifferent non-voters out of their sofas - from those who were less enchanted with her than fearing a Dix win. Relax. The pressure's off. New game. Advantage: Dix. Maybe also Cummins among small-c conservatives in south Okanagan, while Liberal potatoes return to their couch.

Third, The Carpetbagger Effect: Will Okanagan voters burst their buttons with pride, welcoming a premier to represent their own dry land (once more, as God intended)? Or will they be on a knife-edge balance with those deeply resenting that their May 14 choice, popular Ben Stewart, was muscled aside by the Liberals' hit men, an insult to local democracy?

Which impulse, pride or resentment, is stronger in Westside-Kelowna is beyond even my prophecy. But some of those who sweated bullets campaigning to elect Stewart will deeply resent him being handed a made-in-Victoria sword and advised to fall on it for the greater good of the party, the people, and all that noble stuff.

A premier who couldn't win her own riding? Too damn bad. Let her wait a few months until paralytic boredom or kindly death removes a Liberal. She doesn't have to brighten the legislature with her bubbly presence, especially having voiced her disdain for the never-never-land insanity of political Victoria.

Fourth, The Personal Factor: Anyone actually care about Stewart's feelings? Or are such trifles shrugged off in politics' crude snatches at power?

If I were in his campaign-worn shoes I'd be tempted to tell the party thugs who came a-calling to go take a Highland fling at a rolling doughnut. Actually "Highland fling" is not the exact terminology in this thoughtful phrase from my Hamilton youth, but close enough in a family paper. Won't some voters empathize with Stewart's frozen-smile disappointment?

Fifth, The Marie Antoinette Syndrome: Clark raised salaries of party-appointed twenty-something go-fers, fixers and footmen to $105,000 then, under attack, cut them to $102,000 - still more than MLAs' pay, and much more than most of her let-them-eat-cake subjects earn. The Vancouver Sun's Barbara Yaffe revealed her deputy chief of staff, Michele Cadario, is paid astonishingly more than U.S. President Barack Obama's chief of staff, and more than the premier herself. Beleaguered, Clark retreated again.

Old B.C. story: Thirty years ago a researcher handed Social Credit cabinet minister Jim Nielsen evidence that a Vancouver Island school superintendent had a bigger paycheque in exchange-adjusted dollars than J. Edgar Hoover, powerful director of the FBI. That researcher's name will not be revealed here.

Clark's learn-nothing arrogance coincided with a peak in Canada's Gross National Cynicism about the Senate, the prime minister, the mayor of Toronto, Quebec political payoffs, and (once again and still) the RCMP.

Not fair wind for any election, especially a byelection.

Sixth, The Bad-Luck Gremlin: A tiny oil pipeline leak, but none is too small to gladden the told-you-so enthusiasts, while Clark is finessing the Northern Gateway project, which of course she'll eventually approve. Even a retreating stock market is shadowing her.

Seventh, The Poor Christy One-Note Phenomenon: Clark effectively pounded the election key of jobs, jobs, jobs - us or disaster (while B.C.'s 2012 growth was lowest in Western Canada).

Liquefied natural gas, given its own ministry, is the knight in shining armour that will slay the demon debt. Or call in the Sugar-Plum Fairy.

The premier will have to find a fresh song sheet to woo Westside-Kelowna, and it says here she's in tough and tuneless. rtlautens@gmail.com

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