“If no one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.”
Playwright Neil Simon’s clever statement seems apt with news the Ida Chong recall fell short of signatures needed to trigger a by-election. Notice that I did not refer to the recall campaign as a failure. It was not.
Shortly after the May 2009 election, we became certain that Gordon Campbell’s Government achieved success through deceit and duplicity. I don’t need to recount details but the issues relate to debt, deficit and taxation. Liberal leadership, particularly Campbell and Hansen, reacted with smugness. Politicians who claimed for themselves great personal management skills suddenly knew nothing about negotiations underway for a tax that would account for more than $15 billion in their three year fiscal plan. Finance Minister Colin Hansen said the HST was not on the radar screen before the May 2009 election, even though he received a six-page briefing note in March 2009.
I said Liberal Party bosses reacted with smugness. Remember that news conference when they told us the “revenue-neutral” tax would save business and industry $2 billion a year and was the single best thing government could do for business. All the news they provided was positive although they had a copy of the C.D. Howe Institute study that warned imposing the HST in BC “will cause a short-term loss” in economic growth and employment.
We also learned that the elected Liberal caucus played no role in a new tax regime. They got the mushroom treatment – kept in the dark and covered with . . . – and HST was presented to them as a fait accompli. The only role for Liberal MLAs was to go out and defend the huge tax shift. Campbell and Co. wanted no feedback, no resistance. The members were not supposed to represent their voters to government, they were required to do the opposite, to represent Campbell’s government to local voters. Only one way communication desired.
That was the background that launched both the HST Initiative Petition and the recall effort. More than 700,000 voters signed the successful petition. Gordon Campbell’s personal approval rating fell to about 10%. The tide against BC Liberals ran strong. Individual members knew their political careers could end and the government would fall. The only choice was to make a significant change in direction. Caucus rebelled and the leader was told to retire. Despite earlier stating his intention of continuing, Campbell suddenly announced his resignation.
A new Government will soon be in place. The disproportionate influence of big business is revealed. The opposition is being re-energized. The environmental movement is newly strengthened. Political journalism has changed. The monopoly of a few media dinosaurs is broken and new media has taken a role in the making of public opinion.
Recall workers, don’t feel discouraged. Success is at hand, a clear message was sent. The ship of state was forced to change direction. That is not failure.