Sam Sullivan and Suzanne Anton are on the move.
Earlier this week, Sullivan was out for a lunch he arranged with pollster Barb Justason.
A week ago the man, who in 2008 was driven from the Vancouver mayor’s office in disgrace, formally expressed an itch to get back into the game. He will be seeking the Liberal nomination to replace departing MLA Mary McNeil in Vancouver-False Creek. Few ridings offer Liberals a safer haven.
Except perhaps Vancouver–Quilchena, which former Gordon Campbell lieutenant Colin Hansen managed to win with a commanding majority but has now decided to vacate taking the stench from the HST mess with him. That is where Anton hopes to plant her flag.
Sullivan obviously craves more action. As he told one reporter, “You can do more if you have a place at the table.”
The problem for Sullivan and Anton is that, if Liberal fortunes continue as they have been for some time now, the particular table they may find a place at could be some considerable distance from the seat of power.
Unlike Sullivan, Anton has never really been out of the game. Sullivan’s most ardent apologist during his disastrous turn as mayor walked the plank for the NPA as their mayoral candidate last time out. She has not been far from the public eye since, including a stint on CBC Radio’s political panel representing the B.C. Liberals.
But here is what these two relatively high-profile candidates do have in common: they both could lose — not in a general election, but before it; they both could lose the nomination. And don’t think Premier Christy Clark would be unhappy about that.
While Anton has successfully avoided scandal, Sullivan carries more baggage with him than a 747. He is certainly smart enough, but he has exhibited a stunning amount of poor judgment as a leader. And that’s even if you forget about the time he bought a junkie some crack then watched him consume it in his van. (That’s a bit of history, by the way, that one of Sullivan’s staff edited out of his Wikipedia biography.)
There was his amateurish and ultimately costly handling of labour relations that led to a four-month strike; his habit of making policy announcements — usually outside the city hall precinct — that his senior staff was totally in the dark over; and, of course, his untimely political end caused by a mutinous uprising over Sullivan’s ineptitude led by NPA councillor Peter Ladner and joined in by the majority of his own party.
Now, as to why they could lose.
Neither the Quilchena nor False Creek riding associations has set a date for their nomination. Meanwhile, Anton has been beating the bushes to sign up members for months now and nobody has formally stood up to challenge Sullivan.
But in Quilchena, Anton has a formidable opponent in Andrew Wilkinson. For those who don’t know him, he is a Rhodes Scholar who earned both medical and law degrees and was a deputy minister of economic development in Gordon Campbell’s government. He was also president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Liberal Party of B.C., and is now practicing law.
He is supported in his quest for the nomination by none other than Colin Hansen’s mother-in-law Doreen Braverman, former NPA president Paul Barbeau and the inestimable Liberal force in B.C. that is May Brown.
While Sullivan has had a free run so far, former Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt is mulling his options. After driving the NDP’s Tim Stevenson off the provincial scene, Mayencourt left provincial politics to run unsuccessfully for the federal Tories. He put time in as a drug counsellor. Now he is working for the provincial Liberal caucus. He is keeping his head down, sort off, except to confirm he is interested in seeking the nomination. He has told me he expects to make that decision “soon.”
And that gets back to what Sullivan may be seeking from his pollster.