Campbell exits, his legacy uncertain

Gordon Campbell's evolution on aboriginal rights is remarkable

VICTORIA – Gordon Campbell was in a buoyant mood as he left the legislative chamber after his final question period as premier.

“Free at last, free at last,” he said, quoting a traditional song made famous by U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King. The shackles of high office officially remain around his ankles for another week or so, but with a stand-pat budget awaiting the next premier’s priorities, his 27-year career as an elected politician is effectively over.

Campbell’s place in B.C. history is secure on several fronts, including scheduled elections, reduced business and personal tax rates and a more mature relationship with Ottawa.

There are at least two important areas where his achievements remain in doubt: aboriginal relations and climate change.

In interviews last week, Campbell said his greatest regret was the demise of the Recognition and Reconciliation Act. That law would have recognized a form of aboriginal rights and title across the province, essentially a huge out-of-court settlement for the 90 per cent of B.C. that remains without treaty settlements.

It all collapsed pretty quickly, partly because it was seen as a backroom deal that was to be pushed through before the 2009 election. The mining and forest industries were alarmed, the legislation was held back, aboriginal leaders took it to hearings, and chiefs around the province rejected it as a watered-down version of the rights they believed they could win in court.

It is remarkable that Campbell went from “professional Indian fighter,” as he was characterized by some after his 2002 referendum on treaty settlements, to the architect of the “New Relationship,” arguably a too-generous bid to untie B.C.’s biggest political knot.

The Tsawwassen and Maa-Nulth treaties are important, but they were hashed out the old-fashioned way, with years and lawyers and consultants and sacks of taxpayers’ money. Two northern B.C. Liberal MLAs voted against them; the split remains.

On aboriginal relations, Campbell started deep in his own end and carried the ball at best to midfield.

On climate change, one could say he scored at least a field goal. When I sat down with him last week, he mentioned a recent conference in California he attended with George Schultz, the economist and business executive who rose to be secretary of state for Ronald Reagan.

With plans for a carbon trading system in disarray in the U.S., Campbell said Schultz pointed to B.C.’s revenue neutral carbon tax and said that is exactly what other jurisdictions should be doing to reduce greenhouse gases.

By 2012, the B.C. carbon tax will account for just under seven cents on a litre of gasoline, on top of other fuel taxes B.C. and Ottawa continue to collect. It will set a “carbon price” of $30 a tonne across all fossil fuels.

Campbell is convinced the carbon tax will survive, if not grow. He says leadership candidates should look at continuing the increases that are mandated until 2012, and continuing to offset them with personal and business income tax reductions.

One leadership candidate is already touting the benefits of the carbon tax, and surprisingly, he’s not a B.C. Liberal. The NDP’s John Horgan now admits he was wrong to oppose the tax, but he wants it extended to the non-fuel emissions of heavy industries.

Horgan has also cautiously embraced Campbell’s other main climate effort, run-of-river hydro and wind power, although he wants public ownership through a new BC Hydro division.

Campbell’s climate agenda will have to reach beyond today’s mainly symbolic effort and spread to other jurisdictions if it is going to change the course of B.C. history.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com. tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

New Chilliwack school board sworn in after divisive election

Incumbent Dan Coulter acclaimed as chair with Willow Reichelt winning a vote for vice-chair

Judge to decide on mental fitness of man accused of Chilliwack River Valley shooting

Two psychiatrists disagree on fitness of Peter Kampos but Crown and defence agree he is unfit

Around the BCHL: Surrey Eagles sliding and Cassidy Bowes flows

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

BC Ferries passengers wait to leave Vancouver Island after Remembrance Day

Traffic aboard BC Ferries slows after Remembrance Day long weekend

Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove on the first 100 days

One-on-one discussion with the new mayor paints a picture of what’s in store for Chilliwack

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Kuhnhackl scores 2 odd goals as Isles dump Canucks 5-2

Vancouver drops second game in two nights

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Letters shed light on state of mind of B.C. mom accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey mother Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

Most Read