BC Rail

Truthiness in BC

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.

Categories: BC Rail, Truthiness

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7 replies »

  1. I missed a couple of the first years, but it certainly has been rewarding since I first loafed on here. The writing is fine, but the content is killer and I look forward, as a bit of a masochist, I guess, to each post.

    Congratulations, and best wishes for all your ongoing endeavours.



  2. Congratulations Norm on a great Blog, and thought provoking posts.

    We may not always agree on this blog, but getting the opinions out there,
    really does matter. Solutions come from thoughtful and dynamic discussion.

    Perception is the “new” reality for most people, and blogs are the new forum
    for discussion of topics that affect us all.

    As for the post above. Yes we all bought into the Campbell…perception.
    This province has paid a high price indeed, for this error in judgement. Now that party
    is in ruins, and the province left to pick up the tab…all the way around, a real bad deal.


  3. Congratulations on 3 years of really great blogging! You say that you're not sure that the quality of your writing has improved since you started, but I would cite the above posting as an example that no improvement was needed. Keep up the great work. I so much enjoy visiting your blog every day.


  4. Congratulations, Mr. Farrell on three years of fine, thoughtful posts. Your blog is like an oasis of sanity in a crazy world. Please accept my best wishes. Your work is much appreciated.


  5. Your writing is a fine blend of punditry and reportage, engaged, engaging and lively. This is the place I go first and always for news and insight… so good choice of name three years ago, Northern Insights.

    Re-reading truthiness, I'm reminded of how we need to be vigilant now because I think we're in danger of repeating the same mistake when Campbell was first elected. By that I mean, letting the BC NDP get away with too much truthiness, especially on the health care and seniors files, and electing them in a landslide.

    I admire people like John Horgan, Shane Simpson, Nicolaus Simons and others but I am nervous about the BC NDP's tight ties with unions, especially health sector unions. The NDP's position seems to be unions – right or wrong, we'll take their side.

    There are some ugly things going on in health care, especially residential care now, and the NDP is actively suppressing them, taking the side of unions not the public (although their public rhetoric says the opposite). Try making a complaint about any health care worker, nurse or aide or administrator and you'll see. Won't go anywhere.

    So all those fine words that are spoken by the NDP, I think we're in for a hard landing when they get elected, unless we start to hold their feet to the fire now.

    That goes for all parties of course, but especially the one that's likely to be the next government.


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