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June 11, 2010

Lekstrom Pressures BC Liberal MLAs

It takes tremendous political courage to do what Blair Lekstrom did in resigning both from cabinet and from the BC Liberal caucus. Between now and the time of the May 2013 election, his decision will cost him the perks and power of being a cabinet minister and $150,000 in pay, since ministers "with portfolio" make 50% more than the MLA base pay.

Many of those he left behind in the BC Liberal caucus will be facing recall campaigns starting this November. Petitioners will ask voters why their MLA didn't have the courage to do what Blair Lekstrom did. Already faced with a party in crisis, with just 26% support according to the latest Angus Reid poll, Lekstrom's resignation will increase the pressure on BC Liberal MLAs. Calls, letters and emails to their offices can now demand that they show the courage shown by Lekstrom.

In his letter of resignation, Lekstrom wrote: "I believe that my first priority as an elected official is to the people that elect me and then to the political party I represent. It is clear to me that the residents of Peace River South are opposed to the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and are unhappy with the way in which our government moved forward with this policy." If the remaining BC Liberal MLAs hesitate, within a few weeks they will have proven that they are wedded at the hip to Gordon Campbell's HST rather than to the overwhelming message sent by their constituents, thereby reducing their chances for re-election. A week ago it was hard to believe that the BC Liberals could fall to 26% in the polls; now it is easy to see an accelerated decline with the party following in the steps of the Mulroney conservatives, the Socreds after Vander Zalm or the NDP after Clark.

It would take just six more MLAs to tell Premier Campbell to back off the HST in order to stop it before July 1st. Some will deny that anything could stop it because it is federal legislation, but Prime Minister Harper would have to share the apparent death wish of the BC Liberal party if he refused to repeal legislation he claims was enacted at the request of the province. BC would have to repay the federal bribe and accurately state its deficit, but that would just put the province back to where it was on the eve of the May 2009 election.

Lekstrom has kept his options open. He could run for the leadership of the BC Liberals after Campbell steps down, or he could run for the leadership of another party; the provincial conservatives will be holding a leadership contest in the fall. Lekstrom has put himself in the same position as the leaders of the Saskatchewan Party, Alberta's Wild Rose Party and WAC Bennett when he formed BC's Social Credit Party. He is unlikely to just go away and let his resignation become a one or two day story. He is capable of changing the course of BC politics and policy.