Campbell, Clark and the slow HST rollback

On Gordon Campbell’s Order of B.C., Christy Clark’s belated rejection of a fall election and more.

On Gordon Campbell’s Order of B.C., Christy Clark’s belated rejection of a fall election and more.

First, Campbell’s selection for the Order of B.C. The decision is bad by any measure.

The order was created in 1989 to recognize achievement and service. Candidates are nominated, and then selected by a seven-person panel. It’s supposed to be an honour and a celebration.

Campbell was forced out of office by public anger. It’s far too early to judge his impact as premier. He has been a divisive figure over the last decade.

There were no grounds to award the honour. Especially as only one premier – Bill Bennett – has been inducted into the order. And it came 21 years after he left office.

Campbell’s prize was so rushed it probably broke the rules.

Elected representatives aren’t eligible. The nomination deadline was March 10. Campbell didn’t resign until March 15 and so shouldn’t have been considered.

The selection panel includes a university president, the province’s chief justice, a deputy minister, a Union of B.C. Municipalities rep, the Speaker and two members of the order.

A mostly elite group, and one closely tied to Campbell and the Liberals. Speaker Bill Barisoff is a Liberal MLA and a loyalist. The deputy minister, Pierette Miranda, worked in the premier’s office.

The UBCM rep, Barbara Steele, was a Liberal candidate. The universities’ representative, Ralph Nilson, has donated to the Liberals. One of the order members, John Furlong, was backed by Campbell as the 2010 Olympic top boss.

Which all makes Campbell’s selection look like a handful of establishment people looking after one of their own, without even thinking how other British Columbians might see the choice. (A perception reinforced by the simultaneous induction of Ken Dobell, Campbell’s long-time managerial sidekick, and David Emerson, the federal politician who ran as a Liberal and immediately crossed over to the Conservatives and a cabinet job.)

It’s surprising the panel didn’t think this might be seen as thumbing their noses at British Columbians, whose disdain forced Campbell from office.

Second, Clark’s announcement that a fall election is no longer an option and she’ll wait for the fixed election date of May 14, 2013.

It’s the right decision. The province has been damaged by two years of chaotic tax policy and political uncertainty. It’s time to try for stable government.

And Clark hasn’t given any clear indication of her vision and agenda for the province in the six months since she won the leadership. It’s too soon for an election.

But her refusal to rule out a fall election until now still looks irresponsible.

And Clark’s comments in announcing that she wouldn’t call an election reinforce the perception, right or wrong, that she isn’t serious enough about the premier’s job.

Clark said she had listened to the public, and people didn’t want an election. And she said she recognized that an election would be harmful, given global financial instability.

But that was Wednesday. Just five days earlier, Clark had refused to rule out a fall election. Surely she knew about the global financial crisis then.

Third, the HST reversal. The government took about 11 months to impose the tax from they announced it, having done no studies or analysis of its impact.

But Finance Minister Kevin Falcon says it will take 19 months to rescind it, even though the government has had months to prepare for the likely result of the referendum.

That’s a damaging delay. Why do a major home reno, for example, if the tax hit will be much lower once the HST is repealed? Or start a restaurant?

Falcon and company were once critics of the creeping pace of government. Now he seems comfortable with what he once considered outrageous.

All of which suggests Clark is wise to put off an election for a while.

Footnote: The other HST question is why the government has been so quick to roll over and promise to repay the federal government the full $1.6 billion incentive payment to adopt the tax. The HST will have been in place for half the required five-year term. The province spent money to implement the tax, in good faith. At the least, some hard bargaining was in order, not a quick agreement to repay all the money.

willcocks@gmail.com