Gordon Campbell and I have a mutual dislike for each other. It goes back to my days as an Executive Assistant in the BC NDP government in the 1990's. I was a political appointee and he was the newly elected leader of the BC Liberals. Campbell may not remember our short and brief encounters in the Cariboo or in Victoria. I do as its not that often I come face to face with someone that instantly goes from a cheery smile to a forced, albeit unsuccessful new smile that says, "who let that little socialist fag near me".
Campbell never really had a lot of public support. People voted for the party over him. Few people were "warm" to him. He was a politician that always had two faces. The one he showed you as you met with him and the other when he walked away from you. The HEU know this well. Before the 2001 election, Campbell met with the HEU, was interviewed by their newsletter. He told them a contract was a contract, he would abide by any union contracts in place.
It did not take Campbell long to show his other face once he became Premier. Campbell introduced new laws, including Bill 29, that stripped away many of the rights and benefits in the very union contracts he promised to honour only 13 months before. Workers making $14 to $18 an hour were laid off and sometimes offered their job back at $10 to $12 an hour. The BC Liberal Government was taken to court by the HEU, BCGEU and other unions. The case fianlly made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where the court declared the government had violated the workers rights.
"The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that sections of Bill 29, the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In a groundbreaking ruling extending the freedom of association provision of the Charter to include the right to free collective bargaining, the Court struck down key provisions of the 2002 law that restricted and gutted the bargaining rights of health care workers." - BCGEU Press release July 2007
That was before he announced that a BC Liberal government would sell BC Rail. People in BC were pretty happy owning Canada's third largest railway. They liked the idea you could catch a passenger train from North Vancouver to the 108 Mile Resort or too Prince George.
They also liked the historic Royal Hudson which ironically was bought by the Dave Barrett NDP government in 1974 and completely restored and in service from Vancouver to Squamish in the same year.
Campbell lost the election in 1996. His supporters in the BIG business community were pissed off at him. Campbell learned his lesson. In the 2001 election, he promised to keep BC Rail. It was not for sale. That promise lasted about two years. In 2003 Campbell and the BC Liberals sold the Railway to CN for $1 billion. It was a steal for CN. The railway made the provincial government between 30 and 50 million a year in profits. It was also responsive to local issues and local businesses. It had an excellent relationship with its customers and local communities.
So why did the Liberals sell off BC rail if it was so good for BC? I suspect it had to do with the relationship Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals had with the Chairman of the Board of CN Rail, David McLean. McLean was behind a group of business people that encouraged Campbell to run for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party. He helped fund-raise for Campbell and gave generously himself.
In 2002, that's the year before BC Rail is handed to CN, McLean made donations of $36,075 on behalf of, you guessed it, CN Rail to the BC Liberals. In 2004 McLean and or his family and companies gave over $20,000 to the BC Liberals. That's almost $60,000 to the BC Liberals from one person. Did McLean have anything to to gain by encouraging and funding Campbell's BC Liberal leadership campaign? Was McLean instrumental in Campbell's promise during the 1996 election to sell off BC Rail?
I will do more on Campbell's legacy soon. I haven't even mentioned Campbell's joyride in Hawaii yet...