Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Order of British Columbia's Liberal, Vancouver 'Establishment' Bias

According to wikipedia, the Order of British Columbia  "is a civilian honour for merit in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Instituted in 1989 by Lieutenant Governor David Lam, on the advice of the Cabinet under Premier Bill Vander Zalm ... the order is administered by the Governor-in-Council and is intended to honour current or former British Columbia residents for conspicuous achievements in any field, being thus described as the highest honour amongst all others conferred by the British Columbia Crown".  The  B.C. government web page states that the award is decided by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council (i.e. the Cabinet)   on the advice of an independent advisory council consisting of:

• The Chief Justice of British Columbia – Chairperson
• The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly
• The President, in turn, of British Columbia’s Public Universities, for a two-year term
• The President of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities
• The Deputy Minister, Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat
• Two past recipients of the Order
Obviously, the Chief Justice is non-partisan and above reproach, but he just serves as the chair of the proceedings; the UBCM President can usually be expected to be quite independent of government, but everyone else (with the possible exception of the president of the Universities Council) is an appointee of the provincial cabinet.
So, armed with this knowledge, we can start to make sense of the highly anomolous treatment of  former politicians and political advisors   in the making of this Award. Gordon Campbell was nominated within a couple of months of leaving the premier's office , even though he still occupies a post in London as Agent -General.  This is the political equivalent of Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux having the usual 5-year waiting period waived for installation in the hockey Hall of Fame.  Campbell was described in his citation as having been a "visionary".
But Bill Bennett, the third-longest serving premier in B.C.'s history, had to wait until 2007---21 years after he retired from politics.
And David Barrett? Who brought Hansard and Question Period and MLA research staff to the Legislature, created the Agricultural Land Reserve, gave BC a modern Labour Code,  created a BC Gas Corporation that subsequent governments relied upon to balance their budgets, brought in public auto insurance, etc.?  He left the premier's office in 1975 and left active politics in 1993.   But when the 2011 awards were named,  Campbell advisors Ken Dobell and David Emerson got the nod for their "passion for making British Columbia a better place," while David Barrett did not.  Mike Harcourt, who left office in 1996 after presiding over an unusually temperate and humane government that brought in  the far-sighted Land Use Plans and a Treaty Process  that ended the "war in the woods" in BC--- as well Freedom of Information and a doubling of  the number of provincial parks---has also been overlooked, notwithstanding his additional work on sustainability, both before 1987 (as Mayor of Vancouver) and after 1997 (at the Sustainability Institute at UBC).
This pattern reveals an attitude: one that reveres Gordon Campbell for being the most perfect representative of the business and professional elites of Vancouver since the old Liberal-Conservative coaltion left office in 1952; one that grudgingly acknowleges Bill Bennett and other Socreds as politicians they once had to hold their noses and vote for; and one that considers two highly distinguished former NDP premiers as being beyond the pale.

The government could have easily avoided the impression of partisan bias simply by appointing Barrett and Bennett at the same time. And by delaying Gordon Campbell's  elevation until such time as they were ready to appoint Mike Harcourt. 
In 2012, David Barrett will turn 82 years of age.  No one has personified the passion for making British Columbia a better place to live more than he has.  He deserved to be named to the Order of BC over a decade ago.  His rival  Bill Bennett was selected ---despite a conviction for insider trading. This intentional oversight is becoming a disgrace. C'mon people--do the right thing and appoint David Barrett to the Order of British Columbia.

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