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Opinion: Peek backstage at B.C.’s drama

New book shares behind-the-scenes info
Richard Zussman and Rob Shaw’s new book, A Matter of Confidence: the Inside Story of the Political Battle for B.C., provides an in-depth look into the 'momentous' moments of last spring's provincial election.

There is no question the B.C. political events of last spring and summer were drama of the highest order.

The incredibly close election result, which remained uncertain for days. The historic and emotional confidence vote, which saw a B.C. government fall from power for the first time in more than 50 years.

The momentous visits to Government House by two political leaders, with one replacing the other as premier of the province. And the emergence of a tiny third political party that ultimately decided just who was going to lead this province going forward for what remains an uncertain time.

Each event on its own is worthy of detailed examination. But collectively, they represent perhaps the most exciting and fascinating period of modern B.C. history and merit a special, penetrating deep-dive into what happened.

And that’s exactly what two B.C. press gallery reporters have provided.

Richard Zussman and Rob Shaw’s new book, A Matter of Confidence: the Inside Story of the Political Battle for B.C., is a sensational account of sensational occurrences and reads like a page-turning political thriller, the outcome of which seems uncertain until near the end.

They have delivered a delicious treat not only for political junkies but also for those interested in reading a breezy, fast-paced narrative that leaves you wanting more.

Zussman, a reporter at Global News (he wrote the book while working as a CBC reporter; he was fired for allegedly breaking corporate guidelines with his book writing) and Shaw, a Vancouver Sun columnist, did not have much time to pull this project off.

They were facing a tight deadline of just a few weeks last fall and immediately set to interviewing pretty well every player – major and minor – about what had happened, while memories of the historic events remained fresh in everyone’s minds.

The result is a lively, behind-the-scenes tale brimming with new anecdotes and marvellous detail. Where to begin?

One of the more vivid scenes describes how NDP campaign director Bob Dewar hit upon the idea of scrapping the tolls on the Port Mann Bridge, a move that many think ultimately handed the NDP enough ridings in suburban Metro Vancouver to win the election.

Another bit of drama captured with riveting new details was the night then-Premier Christy Clark, having lost a confidence vote in the legislature, visited Government House to meet with Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.

The authors paint a picture of a political leader almost desperately trying to cling to power or force an election, only to glumly realize the game was over.

In addition, the account of NDP leader John Horgan being summoned to Government House has some great moments.

After Clark left, Guichon’s private secretary, Jeremy Brownridge phoned Dewar (at this point Horgan’s chief of staff) and told him: “Bob, this is your million-dollar phone call.” Dewar grabbed Horgan and off they went for that momentous visit.

Then there is a marvellous account of the negotiations between the Greens and the other two parties about power sharing and why the Greens went with the NDP.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

– Keith Baldrey