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Go Home, Wonderboy!

By Stuart Hertzog
September 12th, 2007

Christopher Bennett has proved a costly mistake as Interim Leader

Wonderboy Chris Bennett Enough, already! I’ve been holding back for weeks now, trying not to express my amazement and exasperation at the outrageous public statements of the BC Green Party’s Interim Leader.

Christopher Ian Bennett is 29-year-old self-employed political speechwriter and media strategist who offers his services to corporations, business and politicians as New School Media.

Bennett worked on federal Liberal finance minister John Manley’s nomination campaign before joining the federal Greens in 2006 to become Elizabeth May’s national communications director and a federal Green party councillor.

An alumni of the private L. B. Pearson School of the Arts, (Ian Bennett, principal) and Trent University, Bennett The Younger claims to have been ranked #1 in PR News Magazine’s 30 under 35 To Watch list in 2005, the only Canadian to make the cut, and a HUMANITAS Award Winner in 2006, something to do with documentary media.

Extremely self-confident, Bennett, is fancied as an up-and-comer among the Lower Mainland’s self-ego-boosting Public Relations community. He is also rumoured to be a member of Vancouver’s ultra-secretive and very élitist The 20s Club.

Apparently, those in the know (nod, nod! wink, wink!) really do call him Wonderboy.

Outrageous public statements

But since being hired in April for the outrageous salary of $4,000 per month for 20 hours work per week for the BC Green party (nice little contract, eh?), Bennett appears to have done little more than make outrageous public statements on his blog, in ‘official’ Green Party news releases, and in the media.

Among other comments that many Greens find provocative, Bennett has declared that:

Being provocative is one thing, but aggressive outrageousness on some key issues that go to the heart of Green political debate isn’t smart. Besides rousing the ire of many Greens, such silliness drags down the party’s public persona to a sophomoric level.

Out of line on policy, out of touch with members

The problem is not just that many of Bennett’s utterances are deliberately provocative. It’s that many of his more recent statements to the media are wildly out of line with both Green Party policy and the expectations of its members. And that’s serious.

Right now interim Green party leader Christopher Ian Bennett is acting like a crazy Caribbean pirate, firing his loose cannon willy-nilly from the upper deck while steering the jolly ship BC Green to the right, onto some very sharp and dangerous political rocks.

Although only elected as Interim Leader by a slim majority of provincial councillors in a closed-door meeting, Bennett has adopted the air and title of Leader without any buy-in from the membership. He really doesn’t have enough “green creds” to play that role.

An interim leader should be a background figure who’s job is to promote the leadership contest while strengthening the party’s finances and internal processes. Instead, Bennett seems to be using the opportunity to promote himself. And, he’s single-handedly trying to steer the Green party in a political direction that contradicts many basic Green principles.

Wants to address UBCM as a ‘business-friendly Leader’

Bennett has recruited the support of Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan and Whistler major Ken Melamed to petition that he be allowed to address the UBCM at their annual convention. That’s where all BC’s mayors and councillors get together each year.

Traditionally, both the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition are allocated prime speaking time. Otherwise, it’s the municipal pol’s show. This year, Bennett wants to tell them that the BC Green Party is going to adopt more ‘business-friendly’ policies.

Neither a Leader nor an Interim Leader can make up party policy on the fly, and while Bennett may think that he has the political authority and stature to play in that arena, he doesn’t. Christopher Bennett is in danger of creating both an internal party ruckus and making a fool of himself and the Green Party. He should be stopped immediately.

Finally cooked his own goose

At the beginning of this month, Bennett may finally have cooked his own goose. On September 6 Carlito Pablo reported in the Georgia Straight that Bennett was “thrilled at the prospect of working with premier Gordon Campbell.” He had more meetings with Campbell than with NDP leader Carole James — in fact, he’d not even met with her.

“The Premier welcomed me with open arms,” Bennett gushed. “He was fantastically accommodating… I want to work with him… and I think he wants to work with us.”

All this was too much for many party members, including leadership candidate Ben West, who told Public Eye Online’s Sean Holman that he has become ”increasingly concerned with Chris Bennett’s comments, which I think have been harmful to the party.”

Do I hear a cacophony of party cellphones ringing in the distance?

His final folly came on September 11th, after leading Victoria Times-Colonist columnist Les Leyne wrote a gentle warning to our lad. ”Christopher! He’s using you!” Leyne admonished. “The reason Campbell would love to see Greens in the legislature is that every Green MLA would mean one fewer New Democrat sitting on the other side of the legislature.” Wise words indeed, Mr. Leyne. But isn’t that kind of obvious?

Insulted the media

Leyne’ political wisdom was wasted on our Hero. Promptly (does he sit at his laptop in his kitchen all day, thinking of things to blog about?) he responded. “Dear Les: Can’t We All Just Get Along?” Bennett wrote, continuing with a number of gratuitous insults.

Read it and laugh — or weep. Insulting the media is no way for a politician of any stripe to guarantee that his or her timeless utterances will ever be reported. Les Leyne, who rides his bicycle to work, is a decent man and a fair reporter. It’s Mr. Christopher Bennett who’s totally out of line.

He should do the decent thing: apologise to Mr. Leyne — then resign. The BC Green party will be all the better for it, and Bennett could go back to his true political home. I hear that the Liberals need a brash young greenish candidate to elevate their image.

It’s time to go home, Wonderboy. Premier Campbell awaits you with open arms — and gently smiling jaws.

Or is Mr. Dion more your style?


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