Omnia causa fiunt – everything happens for a reason.
When the captain who carefully plots his own course suddenly and radically alters direction, I ask why. What changed for Premier Gordon Campbell and when did it change? A week ago, he shuffled the Cabinet, overhauled important ministries and imposed a new resource management system still ill-defined. He hired a new Chief of Staff and a replacement Press Secretary. Campbell acted without consulting colleagues outside his immediate circle. He did the reshaping and redesigning, in great detail. One pundit wrote:
The cabinet order incorporating all of the changes — signed by Campbell and Campbell alone on Sunday — runs to some 44 pages, which is to say, 16 pages longer than the one needed to implement the reorganization of government when Campbell took office.
A week ago, Campbell spent $250,000 of public funds for a televised message to the Province in which he promised to consult broadly before changing future government policies. Then, he immediately broke the commitment by announcing a $568 million income tax reduction that had surprised everyone including Liberal backbenchers. He hit the friendly airwaves of CKNW the next morning and revelled in another softball interview. It was business as usual. Thursday, the Premier planned to go nowhere.
Days later, he announced his departure saying that he had become a lightning rod for anger directed at the BC Liberal government and would resign for the good of the province. I’m not buying that. He has been a lightning rod attracting anger for considerable time. Campbell’s supporters began reporting that sustained disapproval of HST by voters was the defining issue. But, what happened in the past few days? Imposition of HST was announced in July 2009, over 15 months ago. Public opposition has been strong from the beginning and Vander Zalm delivered the 700,000 name petition last June. No, HST is the same issue it was a week ago or months ago.
Paul Taylor has been skulking in the shadows for some time but, when they moved Martyn Brown to a cushy landing spot in Tourism and announced Taylor as the new Chief of Staff, Campbell’s departure was not contemplated. Not on the radar, so to speak.
Publicly, Campbell’s private sector sponsors were not pressing him to go. Only a week ago, the Fraser Institute, tool of the wealthiest citizens, declared him the finest politician known to humanity. The party has no significant money problems; big business takes care of those who take care of big business.
The mainstream media was not making life difficult for Campbell, they were as supportive and compliant as ever. The Times Colonist and The Province had been critical but, on balance, supportive of the Premier. Private broadcasters have always been ready to serve and, because of intimidation by the right wing crowd, even the CBC now treads carefully in political areas.
We have not heard the full story yet about Campbell’s retirement announcement. Despite his long standing policy of treating caucus members as mushrooms and his continuous meddling with ministerial authorities, no Liberal colleague had been courageous enough to bell the cat, before now. Perhaps what changed is that new evidence of political mischief surfaced, connecting Gordon Campbell and close associates to misconduct that will not be easily explained.
Wingnuts and nincompoops of the blog world have been on the right track.