“He caught me by such surprise I was just amazed. Here he is, the premier of the province, and he’s spitting on me. So I left the event, I drove back to Cranbrook and I was in shock, I just couldn’t believe it. I know he’s done that with other people.” ... “He’s been a magician at holding his caucus together all these years. The problem in how he’s held it together is he intimidates people.” ... “Those are the things that go on that you never hear about. But I can tell you right now, I think I’m just the first person who’s going to come forward.” --- Just a few of the recollections of one time Gordon Campbell cabinet minister, Bill Bennet, expelled from his position within the party on Wednesday.
When former Cabinet Minister Christy Clark launched her well received anti bullying campaign, who knew that perhaps she had a larger audience in mind than just the school children of British Columbia.
The latest internal turmoil within the suddenly discombobulating Liberal Party of BC, finds reports of bully like behaviour apparently the norm within those caucus walls.
At least that's the impression that British Columbians are left with after the expulsion of and subsequent very public testimonial from the now former Energy minister Bill Bennett (an audio version of which has been provided for on the Victoria Times Colonist), who clearly thinks that any day might make for a good anti bullying day when it comes to his former boss.
Bennett was the at the front of the line recently when it came to making suggestions that the Premier needs to step aside, a political step that found him chastised by his fellow Liberals and now as events turn out expelled from their ranks.
A move which seems to have liberated him even further to outline some of the internal workings of the Liberals, as he saw them under the yoke of the soon to be departing Premier.
And while some might suggest that a few of his analogies are a bit off the mark, (in particular the apparent inference that caucus members were like battered spouses seems a bit over reaching, diminishing in a way the very real topic of spousal abuse by comparing it to the internal workings of the Liberals) there does seem to be enough anecdotal evidence from him to suggest that things were not particularly pleasant at times with Gordon Campbell at the head of the table.
And in fact in a post expulsion press conference yesterday, Bennett's accusation that the Premier drove out some high profile and popular past ministers does seem to have some currency to it. Though in the end, it would appear that such big Liberal names as Carole Taylor and Christy Clark don't particularly seem to have been particularly damaged by their inter actions with the Premier.
And clearly their popularity today in the wake of their departures from his assorted past governments, is in stark comparison with the approval ratings that their one time boss currently holds.
In fact, those two prominent Liberals of the past, along with current Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, probably represent the top three choices of Liberals in the province. Interestingly enough, all three currently have nothing to do with the government as led by the Premier.
Which in itself probably says much more than anything else to come out of Victoria in the last two months.
While one can feel sympathy to a degree with Bennett's thoughts, the simple fact is he and a good number of those that remain in the Liberal caucus did stay on the Campbell train over the last ten years.
So, while offering empathy for what has clearly been a traumatic experience for Bennett and perhaps others in the caucus room, there was always the option to turn away from the salary and perks of political power and take their leave and express their indignation prior to the implosion of the party's fortunes in the last six months.
However, by speaking out on the issue of the Premier's rather authoritarian rule, Mr. Bennett has once again introduced the theme of the need for renewal. One which must surely involve the Premier stepping aside much sooner than his previously announced February departure date.
Or as Mr. Bennett more succinctly put it for himself (and maybe for a few others), Mr. Campbell should just leave!
While Bill Bennett was reportedly expelled by his caucus co-workers for stepping out of line, one imagines he now feels far more rejuvenated than those that have remained and continue to toe the line.
The remarkable theatre of the absurd that has become the Liberal leadership debacle, which at times appears to be more of a plot line to the Godfather movie genre, provided for yet more revealing punditry from the province's journalists.
A group who collectively must be thanking whatever journalistic Gods there are for such a bountiful pre Christmas present.
Victoria Times Colonist-- Government in meltdown
Victoria Times Colonist-- Campbell fires at Bennett, hits himself
Vancouver Sun-- Bill Bennett removed from B.C. cabinet, accuses Campbell of bullying
Vancouver Sun-- B. C. Liberals dump the wrong guy
Vancouver Sun-- If any four MLAs were to band together...
Vancouver Province-- This political knife fight will only get uglier
The Tyee-- 'He's Not a Nice Man': Bennett on Campbell
The Tyee-- Colleagues push Energy Minister Bennett from cabinet
Public Eye-- Now watch Bennett's assessment of the premier
CTV BC-- B. C. Premier defends himself over bullying claims
CBC News-- B.C. premier 'abusive,' says fired minister
CBC News-- Attack on Campbell 'outrageous,' says minister