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British Columbia: The weirdest place on Earth?

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The B.C. Liberals' promo hype about British Columbia being the greatest spot in the known world was, on face value, ridiculous enough. Try selling the "greatest place on Earth" bullshit to the one in four kids living in poverty, or those sleeping in the rain, or huddled in alleyways in the Downtown Eastside.

Maybe this violation of the deadly sin of pride in part explains the meltdown of the political establishment in recent days. It could just as easily have been greed, or gluttony, both aptly describing the underlying motivation of the recent Olympic madness. The others, wrath, sloth, lust and envy, apply in nearly equal measure.

In the last month we've seen two seemingly invulnerable political leaders, Gordon Campbell and Carol James, brought down. Campbell's fall from grace owes less to his utter venality or mendacity than to the concern of the elite who buck up the Liberal party that he had become the political equivalent of the feared albatross, his stinking carcass likely to soil the entire thieves-R-us enterprise so carefully cultivated over the last 10 years.

James, unlike Campbell, owes her own demise less to her failings as a human being than to her distinct inability to capitalize on the Liberals' political train wreck. Ten years of rape and pillage, of environmental degradation on a massive scale, and the establishment of a virtual corporate state in B.C. should have been more than enough for the NDP to mobilize the public to revolt. In spite of this, James not only couldn't catch the wave of popular discontent, but in many ways seemed to diffuse it.

For all the post mortem hosannas to Campbell and James for their "public service" (sic), the blatant fact remains that we are miserably served in this province by many of those in political life. Campbell and James were merely the main public faces for political parties that both serve the corporate establishment, the latter clearly hoping that changing the names and faces will somehow make the continued capital assault on the rest of us more palatable. The Liberals will trot out someone like a Diane Watts and the NDP draft Gregor Robertson or his clone and, in so doing ensure that nothing will really change.

The illusion that there is a current vacuum in leadership of both parties that needs only to be filled for all to be right again is just that, illusion: The problem is not that the leaders are damaged beyond repair; it's that the system itself has become -- and likely always was -- dysfunctional. Nothing illustrates the point better than the reemergence of former premier Bill Van der Zalm as a political hero for fighting the HST. B.C politics always skirt the boundaries of the weird, but when the "Zalm" becomes an icon we are well into the territory of the surreal, of politics as a form of mindless entertainment.

It is at a moment such as this one that we are left with a real choice if we chose to take it: change the system, or suffer more of the same.

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