No person acquainted with the young Gordon Campbell is surprised that his political career is ending in disgrace rooted in greed. Without a patriarch, the Campbell family struggled, not in abject poverty, but in living the elegant Point Grey style of their neighbors. The young ones learned firsthand how social status ultimately depended on money. They vowed to secure status that could not be denied.
As adults, both Gordon and brother Michael value wealth and influence as the prime markers of success. These are not humanists aiming to improve the lives of humble folk. They do not spend time volunteering in slums or empowering disadvantaged youth. They deal with human detritus as if litter, to be removed or screened. The important people to the Campbells are the wealth
creators accumulators and backroom rainmakers. The brothers value money above all, not for its ability to do good works, but to purchase comforts, to enable disregard for the commons and to ensure status among society’s exclusive layer, the same folks annoyed by the young Campbell family struggling to live above their means long ago.
I have heard Gordon Campbell’s early pals amuse social gatherings with reckless stories of his youthful impulses and willingness to do deals with pals for joint rewards. Once Mayor of Vancouver, he chose friends carefully and treated them well. These tales are important because they foreshadowed a turn toward darkness when the man gained control of enormous public wealth.
The BC Rail Corruption is the most easily understood but the greatest larceny involving public assets is happening with BC Hydro. Campbell wanted to privatize the agency but that was politically impossible; it had served people of BC too well for too long. Instead, Campbell’s puppet masters concocted a scheme to privatize BC Hydro’s revenue streams. They sold a “green” power plan to the public as the key to provincial self-sufficiency, replete with images of benign river developments operated by deserving First Nations people and Mom and Pop entrepreneurs from local communities. That the Mom and Pop operations turned out to have names like General Electric and Epcor Utilities was minor. If multi-national corporations help us create energy independence and autonomy, so be it. If those international companies must be guaranteed markets at high prices and assured generous profitability for decades to come, that is simply how private capital operates. It is not as if business should have to take risks to earn profits. Besides, we cannot release the full details because competitive reasons dictate privacy. Nevertheless, trust us. Have we ever lied before?
Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente wrote about
“the wacky world of green power, where misguided governments have sparked a massive corporate feeding frenzy (at taxpayers’ expense) to achieve little or nothing of any social benefit.”
However, those are complicated deals, to be paid for partly by people yet unborn. Even accountants and economists struggle with the details. The same people, the smartest guys in the room, who negotiated the sale – not-a-sale – of BC Rail for a billion – or, perhaps a few million – will ensure that public interest is served similarly, whether in railways or electricity, convention centres, healthcare agencies or education.