Former Shuswap MLA and Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott shares his thoughts on the current situation in B.C. politics. -File photo

Former MLA predicts election within two years

George Abbott reserves judgment on whether Christy Clark should resign

Former Shuswap MLA and one-time challenger for the premier’s job, George Abbott says the current political climate will be a difficult, stressful time in B.C.

Abbott, a former political science professor, who is working on his doctorate and operates a public policy consulting firm, predicts another provincial election call within one to two years.

“Based on my 17 years in the legislature, with the numbers being that close, it is going to be extraordinarily stressful… While I’m just guessing like everyone else, my thoughts are that there is probably sufficient party discipline to allow the NDP government to survive in the short-term – six to 12 months.”

Abbott notes the precariousness of the situation.

“Any time you have a group of 87 people, there’s going to be illness or sudden adversities, or the discovery that living in this environment is not for them, with this kind of margin that could be the tipping point, so I don’t foresee an extended tenure.”

Speaking from a political science perspective, Abbott says it was unlikely the Lieutenant Governor would have chosen to call an election, despite the request from Christy Clark to do just that.

“Based on what I know, and I am by no means an expert, but I have done a lot of reading in my capacity as a political scientist, it seemed obvious to me and many others that the Lieutenant Governor would provide Mr. Horgan the opportunity to put together an administration and attempt to win the confidence of the legislature,” he said. “I think there would have been huge howls of outrage had the opportunity to form government been denied.”

Clark’s throne speech, which borrowed heavily from the NDP and Green platforms, may have muddied the waters for the electorate.

“It is not providing as much contrast for the Liberals in comparison to the other parties as has been the case in the past,” noted Abbott.

“During my leadership run, I felt strongly that what was needed was a poverty plan – and not because someone else was suggesting it, but because it is the right thing to do. It is my hope that the incoming NDP can, in some focused way, try to develop that.”

Abbott also suggests that while eliminating tolls might be a popular move, it may not be fiscally responsible, especially with increasing demands on health care and education budgets.

“B.C. may be enjoying a surplus situation at the moment, but based on my experiences, surpluses do not continually replicate. There will be fiscal challenges in the future.”

Abbott wouldn’t comment, however, on whether he thinks Clark should resign. For the moment, Clark has stated she will remain as leader of the opposition.

“As the period of the NDP in office gets longer, there will be growing debate about that issue in the Liberal Party. It really will be up to her to decide what’s best for the Liberal Party and B.C.”

Abbott says that, for now, the parties are all saying the right things.

“My one hope is they live up to the rhetoric that they will try to work together for the benefit of the province. But I’ll believe that when I see it,” Abbott said.

While Abbott was a BC Liberal MLA in both opposition and in government as a high-profile cabinet minister for 17 years, he ultimately resigned from the Liberal Party shortly after an unsuccessful leadership run against Clark and Kevin Falcon.

“I’m happily non-partisan these days,” he said. “I’m not interested in returning to politics. Now that I’ve beat the addiction to political life, I’m not about to revive it.”