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January 14, 2007

Damage Control

"It's a city park."
Gordon Campbell, Thursday, January 11, 2007

"We think this is an important symbol, not just for Vancouver, but for British Columbia and for Canada."
Gordon Campbell, Friday, January 12, 2007

Stanley Park DamageIt's too bad that Global TV doesn't have a video clip on the Internet from its January 11th broadcast of Premier Campbell getting off his chartered plane from Prince George and responding to questions about why he hadn't visited Stanley Park in the month since it was ravaged by high winds. Earlier in the day NDP critics focused on Campbell's absence and called for provincial assistance in restoring the park. When first asked if the Province would step in to assist with restoration, Campbell retorted that it was a city park. His snippy answer required his office to phone back later to "clarify" his remarks. The next day he toured the park with Vancouver's Mayor and pledged provincial assistance. The government website promptly posted a photo of Campbell and the Mayor but it couldn't produce a news release with the details of Campbell's announcement, supporting claims by the Opposition that Campbell was making it up on the fly.

Political damage control was obviously a little late to save Campbell from at least some embarrassment over his response to the situation in Stanley Park. His issue management team was quicker a few days earlier when $1.5 million over three years was announced on January 8th for improvements to Highway 101 on the Sunshine Coast. Fed-up with deaths and injuries, residents organized a protest, and the Campbell government responded on the day of the protest with a long overdue announcement of funding to improve safety.

The second term of the Campbell government appears aimless; in contrast to 100 days of action immediately following his swearing in on June 5, 2001 Campbell took 4 months before he called the Legislature following his 2005 victory. His agenda has been so bare that he violated his Legislative Calendar and didn't call a fall sitting except for the minimum time necessary to confirm the appointment of the Child and Youth Advocate, and only then when he was forced to do so following criticism by Ted Hughes. The new method of operating for the Campbell government seems to follow a directive to avoid conflict. That's why many pundits believe that a reason will be found to stop the coal power generation plants tentatively approved for Princeton and Tumbler Ridge; it's why opponents to those projects are encouraged to maximize pressure on Campbell.

The Campbell government has failed to deal with poverty and homelessness, but unlike concerns over highway safety or fallen trees, poverty activists haven't been able to connect with public opinion in a way that applies political pressure. The government was forced to backtrack in its cuts to child protection but that is different than helping those who sleep in doorways and under bridges. If compassion won't motivate the Campbell government, the threat that people lying on sidewalks poses to tourism may help to get some action. Activists need to make poverty the kind of issue that demands political damage control.


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2007 David D. Schreck. All Rights Reserved.