Monday, September 05, 2011

Campbell's order, no fall election and the slow HST repeal

On Gordon Campbell’s Order of B.C., Christy Clark’s belated rejection of a fall election and more.

First, Campbell’s selection for the Order of B.C. The decision is bad by any measure. The order was created in 1989 to recognize achievement and service. Candidates are nominated, and then selected by a seven-person panel. It’s supposed to be an honour and a celebration.

Campbell was forced out of office by public anger. It’s far too early to judge his impact as premier. He has been a divisive figure over the last decade.

There were no grounds to award the honour. Especially as only one premier - Bill Bennett - has been inducted into the order. And it came 21 years after he left office.

Campbell’s prize was so rushed it probably broke the rules. Elected representatives aren’t eligible. The nomination deadline was March 10. Campbell didn’t resign until March 15 and so shouldn’t have been considered.

The selection panel includes a university president, the province’s chief justice, a deputy minister, a Union of B.C. Municipalities rep, the Speaker and two members of the order.

A mostly elite group, and one closely tied to Campbell and the Liberals. Speaker Bill Barisoff is a Liberal MLA and a loyalist. The deputy minister, Pierette Miranda, worked in the premier’s office. The UBCM rep, Barbara Steele, was a Liberal candidate. The universities’ representative, Ralph Nilson, has donated to the Liberals. One of the order members, John Furlong, was backed by Campbell as the 2010 Olympic top boss.

Which all makes Campbell’s selection look like a handful of establishment people looking after one of their own, without even thinking how other British Columbians might see the choice. (A perception reinforced by the simultaneous induction of Ken Dobell, Campbell’s long-time managerial sidekick, and David Emerson, the federal politician who ran as a Liberal and immediately crossed over to the Conservatives and a cabinet job.)

It’s surprising the panel didn’t think this might be seen as thumbing their noses at British Columbians, whose disdain forced Campbell from office.

Second, Clark’s announcement that a fall election is no longer an option and she’ll wait for the fixed election date of May 14, 2013.

It’s the right decision. The province has been damaged by two years of chaotic tax policy and political uncertainty. It’s time to try for stable government.

And Clark hasn’t given any clear indication of her vision and agenda for the province in the six months since she won the leadership. It’s too soon for an election.

But her refusal to rule out a fall election until now still looks irresponsible.

And Clark’s comments in announcing that she wouldn’t call an election reinforce the perception, right or wrong, that she isn’t serious enough about the premier’s job.

Clark said she had listened to the public, and people didn’t want an election. And she said she recognized that an election would be harmful, given global financial instability.

But that was Wednesday. Just five days earlier, Clark had refused to rule out a fall election. Surely she knew about the global financial crisis then.

Third, the HST reversal. The government took about 11 months to impose the tax from they announced it, having done no studies or analysis of its impact.

But Finance Minister Kevin Falcon says it will take 19 months to rescind it, even though the government has had months to prepare for the likely result of the referendum.

That’s a damaging delay. Why do a major home reno, for example, if the tax hit will be much lower once the HST is repealed? Or start a restaurant?

Falcon and company were once critics of the creeping pace of government. Now he seems comfortable with what he once considered outrageous.

All of which suggests Clark is wise to put off an election for a while.

Footnote: The other HST question is why the government has been so quick to roll over and promise to repay the federal government the full $1.6 billion incentive payment to adopt the tax. The HST will have been in place for half the required five-year term. The province spent money to implement the tax, in good faith. At the least, some hard bargaining was in order, not a quick agreement to repay all the money.


Anonymous said...

Campbell's appointment to the Order of BC is a spectacular insult to British Columbians, as you point out, and so spectacular that one has to conclude that it was deliberate.

You would think that the BC Liberals would want to put more distance between themselves and the disgraced former premier, but this seems to give the public something to connect them for a good while to come.

Anonymous said...

I thought Campbell's OBC would only inflame the blogosphere and am pleasantly surprised to see a spirited rebuttal by the wider world.

Has anyone thought to ask the unions representing the tax takers how fast they can make the switch back? Weren't the provincial tax collectors BCGEU members who were 'absorbed' into PSAC? If anybody knows how fast the switch can be made, it's the people doing the work. With a little effort and focus the PST/GST can be easily reintroduced at the start of the next fiscal year - April 01, 2012.

DPL said...

The Globe and Mail did an article saying the BC Liberals are rethinking the delay in removing the HST. Maybe it's beginning to dawn on them that the tax payers are getting tired of their BS. As for Gordo and his new gong, well the committee simply doesn't care what the rest of the province thinks, it is there to keep Gordo and pals happy. The BC Liberals figure they can do what they want, when they want. Cristy finally listened to somebody who knew if she called an election this fall, they would get badly trounced. Time to turf them out

Anonymous said...

The HST was a scam by, Campbell, Hansen and Harper. This unfair tax was to thieve from the BC people, to give to big business. Never was the BC HST meant to make life easier for the citizens. And, it hasn't, we are much worse off.

The corruption in the OBC, has caused a storm of fury. To think they would give the worst most corrupt and evil Gordon Campbell, that honor, is so disgusting.

The fact that Harper rewarded that scum Campbell, as High Commissioner to England, for doing Harper's dirty work, was bad enough.

The entire world is aware how democracy, has slipped into a Canadian dictatorship. We were warned what would happen to Canada, if Harper got a majority, (which many Canadians are doubtful about) we could kiss Canada good-bye.

The OBC is meant for decent honest citizens. The scum the OBC has named for the award, is revolting.

I truly believe the Odure of BC, should be abolished. There are no longer any, morals, ethics nor honor, in this institution.

Anonymous said...

Well said Paul. There is a growing list of examples of how the Province of BC is becoming more of a divided class between the elite and the common folk. I hear from a growing number of people who don't understand why the CEO of BC Ferries can make over $1M a year when regular folk can't afford to take the Ferry.

I believe that this is one reason why the HST referendum failed. People are tuning out the BC Government message and simply don't trust the the BC Liberals. The Liberals own arrogance feeds that sense of entitlement.

Scotty on Denman said...

Opposition leader Gordon Campbell grovelled before the BC Business Council with, neo-right zeal, and they accepted him as their chief sycophant. When he won the top political job by lying about the sale of BC Rail, they knew he was their boy backing the BC Liberal machine with money and media support as Campbell effected their agenda of union busting and privatization of public assets.

At first Campbell was unopposed (the NDP having been reduced to two seats by a media smear campaign of former Premier Glen Clark and the Fast Ferries) but he prudently instituted the massive Premier's Office and the Public Affairs Bureau to conceal his agenda and sweeten the privatization medicine, which had become a more cautious slow poison rather than the direct trip to the chopping block, like BC Rail.

The NDP became a contender again in the next election, increasing their seat count ten fold, but remaining in Opposition. At the same time people were beginning to grumble about the so-called "privatization" of BC Ferries while the BC Rail corruption trial loomed ominously in the background. Nevertheless, Campbell won his third mandate by lying, ethics-be-damned, about the HST. Private interests, thrilled at their win, were soon disappointed, at the precedent-setting success of the Anti-HST Petition which forced the issue to a Referendum. Yet Campbell still appeared to be the best sycophant to spearhead the agenda of private interests.

There were storm clouds on the horizon, however. Although Campbell successfully shut down the BC Rail corruption trial, the resulting disgust and suspicion became worrisome and the privatization agenda was becoming increasingly rushed, looking desperately sneaky and blatant (BC Hydro policy being the prime example.) Finally, Campbell's unilateral 15% tax cut indicated that he had crossed the line from chief sycophant to that of hubris and he was given his walking papers.

Corporate interests must have been confident that one of Campbell's ideologically groomed caucus would win the leadership of their sycophantic party, and therefore must have been disappointed at outsider Christy Clark's victory and of her promise of an early election. In her victory, the distrust of the Campbell BC Liberals, even amongst their own membership, was palpable. Calling an election that they would probably lose was not what a good business interest sycophant should do and many in the caucus and corporate boardrooms must have secretly wished that she would lose her by-election (which she very nearly did.)

The defeat of the HST by narrow margin is the only outcome that can plausibly nullify Christy Clark's early election promise and that's exactly what we got, by one means or another. Now, with her engines cooled, and with a lecture from Stephen Harper, Christy appears completely cowed. From this point she will be a titular Premier reduced to repeating her meaningless "families first" slogan, while Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, the favourite of big business, will assume their mantle of chief sycophant to their agenda, completing as much of it as possible before the final day of reckoning in 2013.

The HST will be used as a diversion away from the raft of other issues that people distrust the BC Liberals about. Despite everything, big corporate interests appear to have, once again, everything well in hand. The lesson they take is that people are mad at the BC Liberals in general, not at the HST in particular, therefore the chief sycophant's job is to entrench their agenda irreversibly before his day of doom, requiring only obedience and loyalty.

Campbell's hubris is still apparent, despite having cost him his job. His patronage appointment is something he surely felt he was owed. His attempt at the Order of BC is surely more of the same. Only hubris can justify reward for lying and corruption. It is right in Campbell's mind because being chief sycophant to business interests was a job he truly loved. But because of hubris, he lost it.

Anonymous said...

well said scotty!

Dawn Steele said...

Totally agree with you on the first issue, Paul but I'm not sure I agree on the second.

Falcon has just warned of deep cuts to provincial spending as punishment for the voters' decision to reject the HST. Commenters have been quick to note the deep contradictions in Falcon's claim, since the HST was supposed to be revenue neutral and the Premier had promised to cut the HST rate to neutralize windfall revenues, had we voted to keep it.

Nevertheless, we can now expect the Christy Clark government to present an austerity budget for next year, just after the Premier herself warned of the global headwinds facing the BC economy and just as everyone from the US Fed to the OECD & IMF warning that austerity could tip fragile economies back into recession.

Disadvantaged British Columbians have been repeatedly asked to tighten their belts for a decade now, with some of the worst measures, such as CLBC's cuts to people with developmental disabilities, carrying very serious human health and safety consequences. And with CLCB, for example, even a status quo budget would mean far more serious consequences for the next two years, never mind the impacts of further belt tightening.

Given the high stakes, Falcon's plans for a new round of austerity should be put to the test of a spring election, with the opposition parties invited to offer their own alternative budgets so that BC voters can weigh the options and choose for themselves.

The current govt totally blew it with its handling of the HST debacle. Putting the reckoning off until 2013, with the likelihood of another 180 degree turn at that point, will only prolong the uncertainty and harm that arises from that.

Time to face the music, let the voters choose a course and get on with implementing that.

In the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis, governments that had clearly lost public confidence, such as those in Ireland and Iceland, stepped aside so that a new government could seek a public mandate to do what was required to get back on track. Recent events, including the HST vote, demonstrate that Clark & Falcon do not have either a clear mandate or public confidence to make the tough decisions required to move forward in the current context.

Anonymous said...

Falcon's "deep cuts" are to serve Falcon.

In order to claim his rightful mantle of Premier: Falcon needs to be the leader of an elected majority party - the BC Liberals. Unfortunately Falcon tried, and failed to reach that brass ring on his first attempt. While Falcon may have been OK standing behind the man who dragged him out of obscurity and thrust him onto centre stage; Falcon sees no advantage in helping Princess Christy prolong her Premiership.

Clark's first mistake as 'leader' was promoting Falcon to finance - money is the leverage of power and she gave away the keys to the kingdom (think Blair & Brown, or Chretien & Martin). She should have given him MCFD, but was apparently spooked by the thought that he might thrive where she lost her political life.

Falcon will do his best to enrage the electorate and bring the NDP to power. He is gambling on another one term NDP mandate from whose burning embers he shall emerge - Phoenix like - resurrecting the rotten Right to rule.

Too Machiavellian? Not in BC.

Anonymous said...

WOW! What happened to Vaughn Palmer?

I just finished reading today's column and there is absolutely ZERO original writing in it.

It used to be that a person could read a thoughtful fact based analysis followed by a reasonably drawn conclusion - but today - NADA.

Just a repeat of the finance minister's talking points accepted without challenge... a pity.

Is Palmer close to his pension and just going through the motions now?

BC Mary said...

On a lighter note ... BC Mary is being considered for nomination to the Order of BC.

Details at Progressive Bloggers, or at my place:

And I really, really needed that laugh.