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

Derina Harvey Band – Heartfelt, Energetic, Celtic rock comes to Port Hardy

Front-woman Derina Harvey leads this Celtic-rock act, who offer an authentic east-coast experience.

OPINION: Urgent care room will cost lives

“Seniors, of any demographic, are the most vulnerable to the loss of emergency care.”

James Hayward coroner’s inquest rescheduled hours away from where RCMP shooting occured

The family is “a bit disappointed that it’s going to be held in Campbell River”

Deadline looming for North Island College scholarship applications

Students have until April 24 to apply for a record number of… Continue reading

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Dashcam captures close call between minivan, taxi at busy Vancouver intersection

To make the footage more nerve-wracking, a pedestrian can be seen standing at the corner

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

Most Read