Former U.S. Presidential candidate Stephen Colbert says people used to be entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. Now, facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. An opinion is held because it feels right. That is the essence of Truthiness, personal reality perceived from the gut, not the brain.
Politicians rely on truthiness. They are expert in deception, distraction and obfuscation. They go before the public scripted and rehearsed, carefully coiffed and strictly supervised. Parties don’t want original thought, they want talking points memorized to be repeated without change. Ethics and honesty are nothing; loyalty and tractability are everything.
Lies indicate cowardice. Politicians readily make easy statements but bite their tongues about hard truths. Individuals cast aside long held principles and go along to get along with party leaders and omnipresent apparatchiks. Veracity is so commonly avoided that public office seekers grow comfortable with lying.
One of the most practiced deceivers is BC’s Premier Gordon Campbell. He promised before the 2001 election to respect legally negotiated collective agreements:
I don’t believe in ripping up agreements …I am not tearing up any agreements.
With the vote complete, his Liberal government overturned labour agreements, imposing contracts on doctors, nurses, teachers, health-sciences employees and others. They suspended pay equity programs, removed retiree benefits from pensioners, slashed workers’ incomes and fired thousands. In a groundbreaking ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down key sections of the BC law that had gutted collective bargaining rights of workers. Despite losing in the land’s highest court, the Liberal government tried to avoid consequences of the case by dragging out negotiations to implement the court rulings.
Campbell also promised before an election that his Government would not sell BC Rail. He subsequently managed disposition of the railway to Liberal supporters, a process that may have been was rigged to favor friends. Campbell promised full cooperation in the investigation of internal corruption associated with the sale. He then established and maintained roadblocks to block access to public records. (They continue in 2012 – editor’s note.)
The Premier’s friend and campaign manager Patrick Kinsella appears to have been simultaneously consulting for the railway, its purchaser and the BCR owner, the government of British Columbia. Campbell and Kinsella refused to comment and 2009 Liberal candidates were instructed to say nothing about sale of the railway.
The Basi/Virk case drags on five years without going to trial. In it, former Liberal ministerial aides are accused of receiving benefits in exchange for confidential information. The case has nearly stalled as the defense fights to obtain documentary disclosures. The prosecutor has already fueled an expectation that charges ultimately will be stayed if the Supreme Court of Canada does not overturn the trial judge’s ruling about secret testimony of an unnamed person.
Campbell repeatedly promised unprecedented transparency in government regarding the 2010 Olympics but ignored the Auditor General’s calls for full disclosure of Olympic costs. Campbell said about $600 million would be spent on the games. The Auditor General put the spending at $2,500 million. Vancouver Sun political writer Vaughn Palmer says the eventual total may be as high as $6,000 million. Rumors spread that ticket sales and sponsorship revenues are falling below expectations but details are undisclosed.
The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association points out that Gordon Campbell and his Liberal party ran on a promise to be the “most open and accountable” government in Canada. “We’re calling them on that promise,” the association said last year when they released a 19-page report documenting barriers to the Freedom of Information process that allows citizens to gain information from government.
Liberal election advertising claims that before Gordon Campbell, BC had the weakest economy in Canada. Demonstrably untrue.
Yet, as direct proof of Stephen Colbert’s thesis on truthiness, Liberal supporters examine the political record and prepare, as polls indicate, to reward Gordon Campbell with another term of office.