Strategic Thoughts

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January 21, 2003

How drunk?

Campbell's Slalom at 112 KWith 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.

Any 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.

In 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 that foolish?

A 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.

A 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 1998."

Relative 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.

Studies 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.

January 14, 2003

Date for the BC Liberal Leadership Convention

Vote for StupidThe 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.

Most 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.

Events 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.

If 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.

January 13, 2002

Sorry is Not Enough

Gordon 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.

Drunk 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.

It 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?

It 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?

It 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.

The 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.

January 12, 2003

Questions for the Premier

Campbell Mug ShotPremier 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:

  • Did you take a breathalyzer?
  • What was your blood alcohol?
  • Did you have to walk a straight line?
  • What was jail like? Was there double bunking?
  • Did you throw up?
  • Did you have a hang over?
  • Why were you smiling in the mug shots?
  • How many drinks did you have over what period of time?
  • Who were you drinking with? Didn't they notice you were impaired?
  • Have you driven while impaired in the past?
  • Would you be prepared to talk to BC graduates before their ceremonies about the consequences of drinking and driving?
  • If a cabinet minister were in similar circumstances, would you allow that person to remain in cabinet?
  • How do you expect the treatment of your case to be handled relative to what your caucus did to Tony Bullhar and Paul Nettleton?
  • Does this change your opinion on BC's Drinking and Driving CounterAttack and on the availability of liquor?
  • Will you ask the Minister of Health to review what resources are available for Alcohol and Drug prevention and treatment in BC?
  • What do you have to say to M.A.D.D.?
  • Do you consider yourself fortunate that you didn't injure someone?
  • Do you expect a drop in the next round of public opinion polls as the result of your behaviour?

If you want to save Campbell's mug shot on a mug or shirt, click on

January 11, 2003

An Embarrassment for BC

Campbell Mug ShotWill it hurt BC's economic prospects to have a Premier whose ability to travel to the US may be in jeopardy as the consequence of his bad judgment?

Late word has it that Campbell will tough it out, and plead guilty to drunk driving charges. That might result in details of his arrest being kept secret. We may never know whether the blood alcohol level was 0.8, 0.10, or 0.20?

Changes in BC's CounterAttack program may now be judged in the context of the Premier's problem.

Although Gordon Campbell will be the butt of many jokes, drunk driving is no joke. An ICBC website states that "Impaired driving still accounts for almost one-fifth of the deaths on B.C. roads." Drunk driving is not a "misdemeanor" in British Columbia.


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