Updated on February 15, 2011
If Gordon Campbell won’t write his memoirs, someone else will have to
Count me as one of those who is disappointed that Gordon Campbell has no plans to write his memoirs. This, of course, may be one of the occasions — there have been a few — when he finds reasons to change his mind.
Say what you like about Campbell, and many have, he has triggered enormous changes in the history of the province, especially since his election as Premier in 2001. (He also left a mark on the history of Vancouver and the Metro Vancouver region with his leadership on planning and development.)
First there was the 90-day agenda, the election program that he posted on the cabinet room wall to monitor progress. Cuts he made then to the minimum wage remain in place today.
That was followed by one change initiative after another, all aiming to make BC the Canadian leader on 10 key indicators by 2011.
The BC Progress Board was created to monitor progress on each of these benchmarks, but some of the dials stubbornly refused to move. A decade later, BC still trails the country with an abysmal toll of child poverty.
Equally notable: on economic growth and standard of living, two of Campbell’s obsessions, BC still ranks almost exactly where it did a decade ago. BC is fourth among the provinces in economic growth and fourth in real disposal income per person, a slip from the third-place ranking Campbell inherited from the NDP.
As the years went by, the goals and the rhetoric became more grandiose. We had Five Great Goals for a Golden Decade, a strangely Maoist 2005 formula that also produced mixed results. (This marked a reboot of the counting process, with the decade ending in 2015.)
Ultimately, Campbell simply claimed victory with the straightforward declaration that BC is the Best Place on Earth.
It all came to a towering climax during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, with Gordon Campbell as Cheerleader in Chief, ubiquitous in his Olympic mittens.
Then suddenly it was over, and so was Gordon Campbell, tumbling to new lows in the polls, desperately improvising a budget, driving through the HST, conceding a referendum, holding a province-wide TV address and then . . . resigning.
He was a central figure in the life of the province for a generation and yet we know little about him and what made him tick. (A Vancouver Sun profile by Frances Bula, published a number of years ago, came closest to decoding Campbell, but still fell short.)
Why launch a massive climate change initiative, including carbon tax, while expanding oil and gas production? Why sponsor a divisive referendum on aboriginal rights and title, then propose a massive reconciliation act, only to fall back on a process of pragmatic smaller treaties and settlements?
“Why would anyone want to read it?” Campbell asked reporters inquiring about a possible memoir. “And if they don’t want to read it, I’m not sure I want to write it.”
In another telling comment, he deplored memoirs in which writers “justify what they have done,” when “what you have done speaks for itself.”
Is this the reflection of someone for whom past justifications now ring hollow?
It’s a story that must be told. I, for one, want to read it.