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October 21, 2007

Forgiving Errors

"Believe me, I have learned a lot since my days as opposition leader when the Nisga'a treaty was brought to this chamber. I have not always been correct in my views, but I have always been, and I will continue to be, willing to learn and to listen to the voices of goodwill that drive a better British Columbia."
Premier Gordon Campbell, Hansard, October 17, 2007

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I cannot find another instance recorded in Hansard where Gordon Campbell has so clearly admitted that he was wrong. There are plenty of opportunities to point to the contradictions between what he said as Opposition Leader and what he has done as Premier, but Campbell has not previously put on the record in Hansard so clear an admission of error as he has done with respect to the change in his relation with First Nations.

Campbell deserves credit for admitting that he was wrong. We could only wish that he would freely admit other errors and correct them. Perhaps he could announce that damages inflicted on thousands of workers with Bill 29 (2002) will be compensated, rather than engaging in a negotiation charade before introducing legislation in the spring of 2008 and claiming that the Supreme Court decision only applies to the future application of his legislation. Perhaps he could amend Bill 25, currently before the legislature, so as to correct the Court of Appeal' "crabbed" interpretation of section 13 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Perhaps he could show some compassion for the most unfortunate in our society at a time when the province is running record surpluses.

WAC Bennett was famous for many things, not the least of which was his famous "second-look". For reasons that are probably easy to understand, given the nasty nature of public life, most politicians are reluctant to admit mistakes. The WAC Bennett second-look, or the Campbell about-face, can earn respect. That lesson doesn't have to be restricted to those with power; members of the Opposition, including the Opposition Leader, can also benefit by admitting errors.

The problems Carole James has encountered as a result of her positions on MLA compensation, the Tsawwassen treaty and twinning the Port Mann Bridge, are frequently mentioned in the columns and commentary of political pundits and critics. To that list we could add her defense of the NDP Provincial Council's endorsement of an affirmative action policy. That policy, which will go before the party's November 16-18 convention for endorsement, requires any vacancy in a riding currently held by a New Democrat to be filled by a woman. It is one thing to have affirmative recruitment with constituencies holding ultimate authority on who will run, but it is another to say "men need not apply", or to deny that is what the policy says.

James has the opportunity to simply admit that as a rookie MLA and leader she has learned the hard way. Like the Premier, she has made some mistakes. When the Premier makes mistakes, a lot of people can pay the price; when James makes mistakes, the damage is primarily limited to her embarrassment. It's obvious who made the most serious blunders, but that hasn't prevented Campbell from being forgiven. James needs to learn from that and put mistakes behind her.

With 19 months to go before the May 12, 2009 election, the public is likely to be generous with a new Opposition Leader who acknowledges that "she may not always have been correct in her views, but has always been, and will continue to be, willing to learn and to listen to the voices of goodwill that drive a better British Columbia."


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2007 David D. Schreck. All Rights Reserved.