B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm did not do what newspapers, TV and radio had badgered him to do: he did not resign. On January 17 he announced his decision to stay Bully for him, said his supporters.
Still it was a close call. It took him five weeks to make up his mind, after earlier losing six consecutive by-elections to the NDP but above all, after two years of ferocious vilification of his own person and of his government. The principal reason for this was that in February 1988 he had had the courage – or insolence according to his detractors – of seeking a way for his province to cease funding abortions.
From Victoria to Ottawa the country reverberated with cries of outrage.
British Columbia has prospered economically under his management and Premier Vander Zalm is confident he can regain lost ground. But the personal attacks appear to have been effective.
In his TV appeal the Premier asked why he should be attacked for expressing his Christian principles. “Politicians,” he said, “must not be moral chameleons. You deserve to know their color. You’ll always know mine.”
“It’s deceitful to suggest I’m trying to impose my religion and standards on others,” the Premier told his followers.
But then Bill Vander Zalm did make a kind of apology. “But I can be accused,” he stated, “of having asserted my personal views too forcefully on some issues. The abortion issue was one of them.
“My view of taxpayers paying for abortions was met with the greatest opposition. On an issue such as this, everyone must be entitled to his or her view.”
B.C. Health Minister John Jansen has since announced a remake of an earlier anti-AIDS video that the Premier had labeled a “condom ad” and had refused to release. Instead of the Premier’s message of abstinence as the solution to the spread of disease, Jansen proposes to pound the need for condoms into the heads of teenagers “with a sledgehammer.” (Star, February 5, 1990)