January 21, 2003
the release of the arresting officer's report late on
Monday, British Columbian's know that their Premier was
handcuffed in the back of a police car before spending
8 hours behind bars in a Maui jail. Whether he blew 0.161
at the scene or 0.149 at the police station is not nearly
as relevant as the description of Campbell's speeding
at 70 MPH (112 km/hr) and inability to walk. "Move
forward" has been given a whole new meaning thanks
to the Premier's holiday. Blowing twice the legal limit
kicks in additional penalties under the Criminal Code
of Canada but the evidence shows that any level of drinking
and driving can be deadly.
amount of alcohol can impair the judgment of a driver.
That is why Sweden sets the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
for an offense at anything above 0.02, and the automatic
penalty upon conviction is a
year at hard labour. Most of Australia sets the legal
limit at 0.05. Canada's 0.08 is the same as Hawaii although
most US states set the limit at a comparatively high 0.10.
the wake of Gordon Campbell's arrest in Maui, several
newspaper articles have run graphic descriptions of the
various stages of impairment as the amount consumed and
the BAC rise. It has been reported that the probability
of having an automobile crash is 250 times greater when
driving at twice the BC legal limit. How many people are
paper presented at the 1995 International Conference on
Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety by Stojiljkovic
et al reported "...over 1200 cadavers
from traffic accidents were autopsied and 36.3% of them
had a positive BAC. And most of them had a BAC below 0.5
g/kg (62%), till 2.5 g/kg had 33% and above 2.5 g/kg had
5%." It appears that having a lower BAC didn't make
some crash victims any less dead.
November 2000 study for the New
York State Department of Motor Vehicles looked at
arrests in New York State between 1996 and 1998; it reported
"...of the drivers arrested for impaired driving
and tested, 38% had a BAC of .10% - .14% and 33% had a
BAC of .15% - .19%. While 12% had a BAC below the per
se level of .10%, 18% had a BAC over .20 %." The
study observed "Analyses by BAC level indicates that
very little change occurred over the three-year period,
1996-1998. The mean BAC remained constant at .1505% in
1996 and 1997, followed by a small decline to .1490% in
to the New York study, Premier Campbell blew in the mid-range
of drunk drivers. Relative to the study of cadavers, that
is of little value.
show that programs like BC's Drunk Driving CounterAttack
with both its high visibility and its accompanying television
ads can significantly reduce the incidence of drunk driving
and crashes. Arrests per man-hour are not as important
as keeping drunks off the road, but Counterattack has
been opposed by Solicitor General Rich Coleman in his
public fight with ICBC; that would be the same BC Solicitor
General who questioned the reliability of breathalyzer
readings. The Premier is not the only BC Liberal with
shockingly bad judgment.
for the BC Liberal Leadership Convention
question is not whether Gordon Campbell will go, but on
what date he will be replaced. Just think of the images
- BC Premier in a US jail for 8 hours, "Vote Campbell,
I'm extremely stupid", and the mug shots that will
never go away. Campbell is too damaged to lead his party
into the 2005 election; his financial backers will not
want to see a repeat of 1996.
members of Campbell's caucus will be able to do the math
and understand that November 2004 would be the best date
for a leadership convention. That way, the new leader
could be responsible for a February 2005 Throne Speech
and budget before the May 17, 2005 voting day. Campbell
is so wounded, he might not be able to cling to power
until November 2004.
could force the BC Liberals to replace Campbell earlier.
A big drop in public opinion polls would likely result
in a caucus rebellion. Public opinion could plummet if
statements made by Campbell in his Sunday plea for compassion
turn out to be false. News reports suggest he likely was
told the reading on his blood alcohol level. On Sunday
he said he didn't know the level. What the arresting officer
described as erratic driving and failure of the road side
tests suggest possible inconsistencies with respect to
the amount Campbell told reporters that he drank. A shockingly
high blood alcohol reading could shake the confidence
of even his staunchest apologists.
Campbell does cling to power for almost two more years,
he could be a liability for implementing the BC Liberal
agenda and for encouraging economic growth. Investors
hate uncertainty, and Campbell's leadership now marks
a government that is not stable. The BC Liberal plan calls
for two more very tough budgets. Freezing health and education
for two years while cutting $1.4 billion from all other
ministries will not be easy. Those who suffer will find
it difficult to take such pain from the only Premier in
Canadian history to ever spend time in jail for drunk
driving. They will not offer compassion to a Premier who
shows so little compassion for the people he governs.
is Not Enough
Campbell was not convincing in his plea for compassion.
He asked British Columbians to trust him and forgive him
even though he refused to trust them by answering basic
questions. Does anyone believe that a person would get
arrested, have their blood alcohol tested and leave Hawaii
without knowing the reading? The public needs to know
much more than the Premier's excuse that he made a personal
mistake while on a private holiday. The Premier made a
choice that has consequences for the province he has governed.
His damaged credibility will have implications for every
issue in which he is involved.
driving is not a personal matter. It is a threat to anyone
in the vicinity of the driver, and it can ruin lives.
Those who want Gordon Campbell to cling to power are saying
that Campbell's drunk driving has nothing to do with his
job. That is wrong.
is wrong because the Premier must set an example. He no
longer has the moral authority to lecture others or to
discipline members of his cabinet or caucus who may commit
similar offenses. What could he do if a cabinet minister
did the same thing next week?
is wrong because the Campbell government is making liquor
more freely available, and it is lowering the visibility
of the Drunk Driving CounterAttack program. How can a
Premier who has admitted to drunk driving take responsibility
for public policy on those issues?
is wrong because it minimizes the importance of drunk
driving as a crime. Who would say that a bank robbery
should be ignored because it was done while the offender
was on holiday? Drunk driving can be far more deadly.
Committing a crime, being held in jail, being fingerprinted
and having a mug shot taken is just as bad whether it
is on a working day or on a holiday.
longer Gordon Campbell clings to power, the more damage
he will do to his party and his government. Opponents
of the Campbell government may secretly hope that he refuses
to let go, but all British Columbians lose by having a
damaged Premier who will be viewed as a hypocrite and
a laughing stock.
for the Premier
Campbell has agreed to be available to the news media
on Sunday, January 12th, at 3:00 PM. There are many important
questions regarding the Premier's behaviour and whether
he can "move forward" but there is also interest
with respect to all of the nitty gritty details. Here
are a few questions that should be put to the Premier: