11.03.2010 01:49 PM

Gord

I met Gord Campbell in the Fall of 1993, when I went out to B.C. right after our big federal election win.  I was exhausted, but I spent a lot of time with Gord and his then-small caucus, giving them tips on how to make better use of Question Period and how to be a better Opposition.  Out of that experience grew a friendship that culminated in my family’s move to B.C. in 1996 – if the Martin-era Liberals didn’t want me around, the Campbell Liberals did.  I helped to run the B.C. Liberal’s 1996 campaign, wherein we got more votes but less seats than the NDP.  Afterwards, Gord offered me the job of his Chief of Staff.  (I turned it down because I wanted to seek the federal Liberal nomination in North Vancouver.  Bad career move.)

Anyway, I have always liked and admired Gord Campbell – very few people know the adversity that he and his family faced, growing up – and I believe he is a good man.  He did great things for B.C.

I wish him the best in whatever he does next.

31 Comments

  1. Paul R Martin says:

    I agree with you Warren. Being a politician can be very demanding. Ten years seems to be the maximum time that most individuals can expect to hold the top job before burning out. I wish him the best.

  2. Namesake says:

    kudos for him for falling on his sword in the effort to spare his Party (as Mike Harcourt did back in the early 90s)

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    I’ve always liked Campbell. The HST thing aside which was quite obviously handled in as horrible a manner as humanly possible really sent his government on the skids.

    My hunch is that due to the fact that he has a solid relationship with this Prime Minister, we’ll be seeing him eventually working on behalf of the Government of Canada in some capacity. I too wish him well.

  4. Riley Hennessey says:

    He was a great Premier who made tough decisions. At the Council of the Federation table, he was a star. The other premiers liked him, and you could tell this guy had a head on his shoulders.

    Sad to see him go. Like Steve Paiken has written, there is sometimes a darker side to politics and the door going out isn’t as graceful as the door going in. I wish him well and hope he pops up again stronger than ever.

  5. I’m having a hard time listing any of the great things that Campbell did for B.C. Giving the NDP a rest on the bench was called for to be sure, but could I call that a great thing? Nope, I need more than that to be impressed.

    What I dislike about Campbell the most is that he is very adroit at appearing genuinely interested and concerned and willing to do something about an issue, but that concern and interest only lasts until the election campaign is over. Lots of talk, all fluff, but worse, he’s very good at selling the fluff. The clearest example I can give is education.

    When Campbell was first sworn in as Premier I was pleased. He made commitments to education during the campaign, and backed them up with a teary-eyed promise at his swearing in. I thought at the time “great, finally we’ll get some much needed improvements – capital, curriculum, safety – whatever – done”.

    He never delivered. In fact he instilled a series of ministers of education where each has been worse than the last. It has become quite clear from his choices of education ministers and the consistent tone they’ve all taken that any meaningful decision making for that ministry is set in stone by the Premier’s office. None of it has been good.

    With respect to education I do not only care about safety, but in a seismically active region of the world, it is an issue that must be put at the forefront lest we one day end up looking more like Haiti or Szechuan province in China with collapsed schools and dead kids. The prior government didn’t do the job. Neither has Campbell. The difference? Campbell has a number of times made solving our seismic safety problem an election promise.

    In the 2005 election he reiterated a 2004 promise to fix hundreds of B.C. schools which are going to be, without exaggeration, death traps when B.C. is hit by the next big earthquake. Progress was stalled for years after that promise was made, little more than symbolic progress was made, despite B.C. then going through massive economic expansion. To this day more than a hundred thousand children are sitting in high risk buildings, right now, located in seismically active zones along the coast and on Vancouver Island.

    Yes, the scope of the problem is really big and yes it will cost a lot of money to fix. Yet other jurisdictions with similar scope of work actually have got the job done. Seattle completed a multi-billion dollar upgrade of its school system – similar seismic issues and costs that Vancouver faces – within 10 years. At the rate Campbell is going, we’ll not be done in 50 years. It’s all a question of priorities. Instead of spending hundreds of millions on an opening and closing roof at BC Place, that same funding could have rebuilt dozens of schools, and likely employed a great many more construction works to boot.

    Clearly seismic safety is of concern to Campbell’s government, but not if you are a student, teacher, parent, or other school facility user. One study I did suggested that one in six Vancouverites used a public school building in one way or another, as a student, in adult education, for meetings, sports, day care – you name it.

    So what does the BC government care about? Booze and politicians. Gordon Campbell saw to it that our liquor stores were made seismically safe, as well as the BC Legislature building itself. It’s good to know that at least the booze and politicians will survive B.C.’s next big one.

    Campbell has a number of times – during election campaigns, at his mea culpa HST TV appearance last month, to the BC Union of Municipalities, to the voters – made flashy promises about education but has never seen them through.

    Now on that HST thing… I’m ok with the HST. Not ok with Campbell and Hansen pretending that it never crossed their mind pre-election. Only an idiot could sit in Vancouver or Victoria in early 2009 and not know that provincial revenue was going in the tank and that they needed a lifeline.

    Is Campbell a talented politician? Yes. He’s been able to turn promises in to votes many a time. He has the knack for image and self promotion and getting out in front of popular, vote-grabbing, issues even while crossing his fingers and twisting or perverting the meaning of his response behind the scenes.

    He can appear green even while promoting more oil and gas exploration and a pipeline across the province to ship the planets dirtiest oil to China so that we can feel smug about our green image while outsourcing more and more GHG emissions to keep them off our books. His climate action plan has a component which is nothing more than a ministry by ministry across the board cut back. Forcing schools districts to pay into a climate fund, when he won’t grant the Ministry of Education the funds to pay for heating and cooling upgrades, or build new, efficient, seismically safe schools, is just another way of cutting their budgets. It’s a complex enough subterfuge that the evening news doesn’t even try to explain it all to the public.

    Is being a talented politician ultimately a good thing for the people? No, not in this case.

    • Warren says:

      Holy jumpin’, that’s the longest comment I’ve ever gotten.

      • Robbie says:

        Mr Watkins post could have been a lot longer had he elaborated on ‘run of the river’ power deals, recent Basi-Virk plea bargain, BC Rail fiasco, an open caucus revolt, fish farms and wild salmon or a myriad of other problems. All governments have warts and scandals. It’s a given when imperfect people are in power. However, his failed and presumptious presentation of the HST was what sent him lower than Brian Mulroney. Over 700,000 voters signed an anti HST petition; and it forced the government to propose a referendum on the tax for next September. If he did not leave now, vulnerable ridings would have been subject to messy recall campaigns.

  6. Dana says:

    Warren, I would not have taken you for an admirer of the selling off of publicly owned crown corporations. Nor did I know you thought that lying to the people during multiple election campaigns was an admirable trait in a politician. And not once in all the time I’ve been aware of your activities and over the past few years of reading your blog did I once guess that you admired uber-control freaks. Perhaps your current stint with the Sun is a better fit than many of us thought.

  7. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    But it’s worth reading what BCers think on the matter of Campbell’s resignation.

  8. dillon says:

    Campbell now McGuinty next. Both typical Liberals. No principles. The only recent Liberal who stood for anything is Dion.

  9. Dave Roberts says:

    The HST decision was good policy and bad politics. Unfortunately doing the right thing isn’t always popular.

  10. allegra fortissima says:

    Michael Watkin’s comment is not only long, but also very precise and well written (are you back on your chair, Warren?)

    Too many issues kept British Columbians upset: Maui, BC Rail, education funds and seismic safety, the gaming grants’ distribution-non-distribution, the HST, BC’s low minimum wage (called “shameful” by the NDP), a 63.1% pay raise for himself (please correct me, if this percentage is wrong), the costs of the Winter Olympics, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Oil Pipeline Project and the proposed gold and copper mine at Fish Lake/Chilcotin Plateau – one had to read the news twice today in order to believe it: the Federal Government has vetoed the big mine, which would have filled the popular lake with trailings, down (my apologies to the Liberals, but this time I have to say “Thank you, Stephen Harper”).

    I predicted trouble for Gordon Campbell in spring, right here on this blog, didn’t I? However, I am polite enough to wish him well, too.

    • Namesake says:

      re: “Thank you, Stephen Harper” — it should actually be “Thank you, Environment Minister Jim Prentice,” who made the announcement…

      …but the “Thank you” for THAT should actually be to Ralph Goodale & the Libs (& the NDP & the SK govt) whose push-back on the Potash decision led Harper to suddenly declare his Ministers actually responsible for their own files for a change, the other day, so Prentice rushed into that narrow window of opportunity to actually MAKE & implement a decision for the first time ever, before that window shuts irrevocably shut again starting…NOW (that they’ve announced a tentative “no” on the takeover).

      • allegra fortissima says:

        Thank you, Namesake. But do you really think the Environment Minister and the Industry Minister could have made those decisions without the Prime Minister’s prior approval?

        But let me say thanks again in a different way: Thank you, Stephen Harper, for your background nod. Thank you, Jim Prentice, for your decision. Thank you, Tony Clement, for your decision. Thank you, Brad Wall, for your political pressure to block BHP Billiton’s foreign takeover bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. Thank you, Ralph Goodale, Liberals and NDP “fer shure” 🙂

  11. James Curran says:

    W., help me out on this one. I don’t know of very many governments that survived after implementing a tax such as the GST or HST.

  12. smelter rat says:

    The Sea to Sky highway fiasco would have been his undoing eventually.

    • Danny says:

      The Sea to Sky highway is great, and the only lasting legacy of the Olympics I use on a regular basis. The drive to Whistler is much easier and much less stressful. And the number of deadly collisions are way down. Two thumbs up to Gordo for Hwy 99.
      I also drive out to Surrey once a week, the work on the new Port Mann bridge and Hwy 1 is great too. He will have had a positive lasting effect on BC for years to come.

  13. Dana says:

    Sea to Sky is a great highway and long overdue and would never have been his undoing. If it took the Olympics to finally get it done then so be it. The old road was an ongoing disaster of blood and mayhem and had to be either closed or rebuilt.

    The cumulative effect of the arrogance, secrecy, lies, misdirections, fire sales of public assets and finally the HST debacle just finally reached critical mass on the vertebral column of the public dromedary.

  14. Lucas North says:

    No one’s mentioned that BC currently has the highest rate of children living in poverty in Canada. He also cut funding to parks, closed 175 schools and sent the mentally ill to live out on the streets. He seems intent on running BC Ferries and BC Hydro into the ground, presumably so that they can be privatized.

    The people who vote for the BC liberals are the same people who vote for the federal conservatives. Their policies are hand-in-hand.

    He has been a nightmare for this province, and it will take years to undo what they have done.

    Glad to see he stopped drinking though.

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