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October 1, 2007

Campbell's Broken Promise

If Premier Gordon Campbell kept his promises, the BC Legislature would sit today (October 1st) in accordance with the Legislative Calendar. There is enough business: six Bills were left on the Order Paper when the House adjourned in May, not to mention ratification of the Tsawwasen treaty and Campbell's promised interference in the "independent" electoral boundaries commission. The Legislature serves the purpose of holding government to account so government doesn't want it to sit and has delayed its call until October 15th.

Who's going to notice Campbell's broken promise when he's busy hob-knobbing with former Vice-President Al Gore? Gore praising Campbell for his environmental promises is enough to make a New Democrat choke. Gore was introduced by Campbell at the event on Saturday September 29th where tickets went for up to $500; there's got to be a hanging chad there somewhere! Wasn't Gore briefed on Campbell's flavour of the month approach to politics?

Campbell's got more initiatives, and promises that BC will be best in the world, than Carter's got pills or Clinton had cigars. His greenhouse gas promises are notably lacking in any significant change that will affect emissions before the next election on May 12th, 2009; in fact, it is hard to find any commitment for a measurable outcome prior to the May 14, 2013 election, before which Campbell is likely to retire. He has promised to appoint a "Climate Action Team" charged with developing targets for 2012 and 2016. If the government of the day fails to meet those targets, it can criticize the "Team"; meanwhile, Campbell hasn't committed to delivering any measurable outcome for the reduction, or the reduced growth in, greenhouse gases within his mandate. That shouldn't surprise anyone as it is no different than his "Five Great Goals", his "transformational" forces of aging, knowledge, creativity and the Pacific Gateway, his health conversation, his housing renewal or his green (without budget) plan. With a challenged attention span, Campbell flits from topic to topic while the public seems to forget that he has yet to deliver on previous promises.

The job of the Official Opposition is to hold the government accountable and remind the public of Campbell's failings. Unfortunately for Carole James she sometimes attracts more criticism over her positions than she attracts attention for her criticism of Campbell. Divisions within her caucus over the MLA pay hike, the Tsawwasen treaty and the Gateway project has left James looking indecisive. Vancouver Province columnist Michael Smyth regularly comments on James' over dilemma; it's not fair to shoot the messenger as some New Democrats are inclined to do. Smyth wouldn't have a target if James wasn't hamstrung as a result of divisions within her caucus. Leading the NDP, particularly the party's Legislative caucus, is like herding cats.

It would be a mistake to think that a few internal quarrels will hinder the NDP in the 2009 election. The contract for the Port Mann bridge will be let before the election; whatever the NDP thinks about it will be a mute point. Likewise for their position on the Tsawwasen treaty; it will be a done deal long before the election. By the time of that election, Campbell's flavour-of-the-month approach to politics may leave more of a bitter taste in the mouths of the voters than any of the quibbles James suffered with her colleagues. James' mistakes are over debating points, while Campbell's have long lasting effects and costs of millions, or billions, of dollars.

No New Democrat is going to challenge James for her leadership before the 2009 election; no one should write her off as a result of a few shots by armchair pundits. By 2009 the NDP may succeed in focusing public attention on what Campbell has delivered rather than what he has promised for a decade beyond his retirement.

 
 

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2007 David D. Schreck. All Rights Reserved.