Tuesday, June 03, 2008


The interference factor


Premier Campbell's administrative style was probably at its zenith with his decision to privatize BCRail. There's no doubt in my mind that Gordon Campbell, who apprenticed in the workshops of Marathon Realty (a CP subsidiary), felt he would know best why and how to conduct the details of such a transaction.

Adding to his self-confidence at the time was his unique position as leader of a 77-seat majority government facing a 2-woman Opposition.

Therefore, it's possible and probable that Premier Campbell has left paper trails which are now taking form as Disclosure applications -- the very Disclosure applications which are delaying the Basi Virk / BC Rail trial.

For that reason, Vaughn Palmer today is especially revealing, in his Vancouver Sun column at:


Vaughn Palmer
Vancouver Sun - Tuesday, June 03, 2008

VICTORIA - Attorney-General Wally Oppal is still hesitating over a second term in the Gordon Campbell government ... {Snip} ...

Halfway into his first term in the B.C. Liberal government, Oppal said he was definitely running again. He repeated those assurances, even after surgery for prostate cancer last year.

But after his friend and political "soulmate" Carole Taylor announced late last year she was bailing out, Oppal allowed as how he was having second thoughts.

Those reservations multiplied after he began to run into the problem that contributed to Taylor's premature retirement, namely interference from the premier's office.

In her case, it was spending decisions taken and announced without consultation with her or the ministry. In his case, it was having to carry the can publicly for legislation not of his making.

The most notorious instance unfolded last month as Oppal was sent out to justify the government's ill-conceived decision to impose a sweeping ban on political advertising by unions, business and other third-party interests.

He tried to rescue the "gag law," scaling back the third-party restrictions to 60 days before an election campaign, from the original 120 days.

In doing so, he didn't deny what was already an open secret, that the 120-day limit had not been his idea in the first place.

Nor was there any disguising Oppal's dismay as the gag law was ramrodded through the house without debate via the parliamentary bludgeon known as closure.

The A-G was on record as promising "a full opportunity for debate on the bill." He also denied it would be subject to closure. "Nobody's called closure," he insisted. "I haven't signalled anything of the sort."

At the same time, Oppal clearly likes some aspects of the job, particularly the public side of it.

He revels in media scrums, ending a recent one by telling reporters "see you again soon . . . you know I am at your disposal."

He's keen on the policy side, as well. For instance, he made Monday's comment about his future after a telephone interview on the appointment of a special prosecutor -- the third -- in the running controversy over the polygamous commune at Bountiful.

Oppal is determined to pursue the case, breaking with a string of his predecessors who concluded a prosecution was probably futile.

But whether those considerations are enough to keep the former appeal court judge at his new job in his 66th year probably depends on what he hears in that sit-down session with the premier.

He has some leverage, because replacing him would be tough. Cabinet has other lawyers -- Tom Christensen, Barry Penner, Mike de Jong, Bill Bennett, Sindi Hawkins -- though none to rival Oppal in terms of stature.

As Oppal's friend Taylor could tell him, any assurances from the premier will only go so far.

She had a face-to-face session with Campbell last summer and came away still inclined to leave after one term.

As it happened Monday afternoon, Taylor was cleaning out her office in the provincial capital in anticipation of the coming cabinet shuffle.

I and my colleague Les Leyne of the Victoria Times Colonist stopped by as her husband, Art Phillips, was loading the car with a large folk art statue of a Mountie that has adorned the ministerial office for the past three years.

No jokes, please, about the last time a cop was involved in carting things out of the finance minister's office, i.e., the raid on the legislature.

"Beating it out of town early?" I asked Philips. "Well ... yes," he replied.

Taylor explained she has no knowledge of the exact timing of the cabinet shuffle. But she assumes it will be later this month.

She and Phillips have already scheduled family time with their daughter for the second half of June. By the time she returns, she's expecting a new minister of finance will be redecorating the office.

She'll spend her last months before the election as an ordinary MLA, though ordinary doesn't really capture her time in public life or the scale of the loss to the government.

It's still an open question whether her friend Oppal will be joining her on the backbench.



"I know no more than you know ..." Premier Campbell assured the B.C. public when police raided offices in his Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transportation.

But someone else said, "Rail spelled backwards is Liar."

- BC Mary.


I think you may have nailed it Mary!

Next few weeks will be more than interesting - it's too bad BC's people and its future may have been sold out for a realtor's dream...by the way, Jack Poole's fingerprints are all over this one too.
Mary, remember that MacLean, head of CN rail is a close, personal friend of Gordo. He lives in the Endowment lands, part of Gordo's riding. How easy for them to meet and plot the future over beverages,
perhaps at UBC Golf Club or Maclean's home. Didn't this take place during Gordo's drinking days?
Good the usual suspects are still on the story, but what's the excuse
at the 'mother ship'?

Post a Comment

<< Home