A week ago, the Order of B.C. was about as newsworthy as this year’s flower count. Then it was announced that the “OBC” would be awarded to former premier Gordon Campbell.
A court of social media opinion was quickly convened. The verdict? Unworthy!
It seems that Campbell, who has packed his bags for a cushy new diplomatic gig in Britain, retains the power to inspire outrage. The announcement quickly spawned two Facebook petitions and a Twitter account all dedicated to denying him his going away present.
One of the online petitions argues that nominations for the 2011 OBC awards closed March 10, four days before Campbell actually resigned his Vancouver-Point Grey seat. The rules state that a nominee must not be a sitting politician.
That is really splitting hairs, but that’s what happens when it is announced that a suspect body of political work and a less than stellar example of good character are deemed worthy of such high praise.
In judging Campbell’s worthiness few forget his last two years in office, two years of costly turmoil rooted in his arrogant belief that election commitments about taxation policy and the attendant obligation to consult with the public were fetters to be borne by lesser political mortals.
However, the good folks who bestow the Order have embraced a lower threshold. In 2011, a brush with the law seems to be the ticket to ride the OBC red carpet.
After all, this is the premier who was arrested in 2003 for martini and wine fuelled drunk driving on Maui. That spree landed him in a jail cell for eight hours. He was fined $500 for driving under the influence, $50 for driving on the wrong side of the road, another $50 for disregarding lane markings and $125 for speeding.
In the months between his arrest and the levying of these fines Campbell did not see any need to step aside from his duties as premier even though as opposition leader in the mid-1990s he had called for more than one NDP MLA to step aside while they were being investigated for various unfounded conflicts. At the time he said: “If I were being investigated, I think that would be a reasonable step for me to take.”
If and when Campbell receives his OBC he will be joined at the altar of public service by his former winger Ken Dobell … another bulletproof servant of the people unaffected by his brush with the legal system.
In 2008, the former deputy minister to Campbell was charged with violating the Lobbyists Registration Act for failing to register as a lobbyist within the required time when he took a contract with the City of Vancouver. Dobell acknowledged the offence and agreed to repay nearly $7,000 in fees.
I checked the OBC list and found several ex-politicians who really deserve to be there by virtue of their public service and their good works outside politics. I found names like Rosemary Brown, Garde Gardom, Gordon Gibson, Grace McCarthy and Dr. Pat McGeer.
One name I could not find was that of former premier Mike Harcourt, a very decent man who has continued to serve B.C. with quiet, earnest distinction even after his near fatal fall from his deck on Pender Island.
And, unlike Campbell, Harcourt was never convicted of wrongdoing. M