Bill Vander Zalm couldn't help himself.
It wasn't enough to lead a successful citizens' revolt against a hated tax. No, once the former B.C. premier got a fresh taste of the old limelight, he quickly remembered how good it all felt. Images of campaigns past when grown women swooned in his company came flooding back.
The fact that the women wilting in his presence are now grannies, not adoring young groupies, wouldn't bother the Zalm. His appetite for conversations with people who view him as some sort of saviour was always ravenous and often indiscriminate. That's why he not infrequently attracted the company and support of some of the biggest wing nuts in British Columbia.
After leading a legitimate grassroots opposition to the HST - forcing the government to hold a referendum on its future - the Zalm and his cronies declared it was only the beginning: They are now going after individual Liberal MLAs who supported the tax. The organizers even came up with a catchy premise for the operation: "MLA Survivor Recall - Vote them off the Island."
They also issued a set of demands that the government would have to meet before the group would call off its campaign. One included allowing them to approve the HST referendum question. It was the equivalent of a political hostage-taking: Meet our conditions or kiss your democracy goodbye.
The Zalm has invited everyone to join in the fun, and the media have been only too happy to oblige. One Vancouver tabloid designed its entire front page around the Survivor theme.
Buttressing it all is a plan to use the only recall legislation in the country to revoke the elections of enough Liberal MLAs to imperil the party's nine-seat majority in the legislature. Oh, the irony.
After enjoying a stint as one of the most popular politicians in B.C. history, the Zalm took a swoon of biblical proportions. Had recall legislation been around in 1990, you might have had 99 per cent of the province signing a petition to get rid of him as Social Credit premier. Eventually, he resigned in disgrace in 1991 amid conflict-of-interest problems. His demise would precipitate the complete destruction of the most successful political party in provincial history - Social Credit.
The Zalm was always a "go big" or "stay home" kind of guy.
Today, he doesn't care that the recall campaign he's leading is an abuse of the legislation. Or that it isn't about principles or getting rid of MLAs who've abused their office or become an embarrassment to the citizens who elected them.
This is about Bill Vander Zalm not wanting to get off the stage. And a bunch of people working for him who have any number of agendas stuffed in their back pocket.
The Zalm's two chief strategists are Bill Tieleman, who has deep ties to the NDP, and Chris Delaney, who announced this week that he's leaving the B.C. Conservatives to join the upstart B.C. First Party. Can it be long before someone from the Rhinoceros coalition is demanding representation in the movement?
Meantime, the backrooms of individual recall drives have attracted former political candidates trying to oust Liberals to whom they lost in the last provincial election. But, remember, this isn't about revenge or political opportunism. This is about a deep and abiding belief in direct democracy, about standing up for the will of the people.
Mr. Vander Zalm lost his first organizer this week when it was disclosed that Al Romanchuk of Kelowna was a vocal supporter of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. Don't accuse the Zalm's campaign of not having standards.
Each riding fight will cost taxpayers about $500,000. It will mean that the sitting MLAs being challenged will have to take time away from their legislative duties to battle for their political lives. This is precisely why many, including civil liberty types, have warned that recall legislation without proper safeguards has the potential of destabilizing democracy and allowing special interest groups - or former premiers - to hijack policy-making.
Doesn't bother the Zalm. He's too busy making his daily media rounds and attending photo shoots to care. He recently appeared on the front of a magazine wearing only boxing trunks and gloves with a towel draped around his shoulders.
Maybe it's time someone gave this fellow the hook.