EDITORIAL: Order of B.C. develops bad odour

The Order of B.C. was created in 1989 during the Bill Vander Zalm era to “recognize those persons who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefitting the people of the province, or elsewhere.”

However, of this year’s 14 honourees, there are not one, not two, but three choices where the perception of political cronyism has won out over common sense.

First up is former premier Gordon Campbell, who presided over the most disastrous public policy blunder since Glen Clark and the fast ferries scandal. Campbell’s mishandling of the HST—from implementing it with no consultation following an election campaign where he made no mention of it to putting it to a referendum—will cost taxpayers $1.8 billion in repayments to the federal government, plus a billion more in restarting the Provincial Sales Tax. To most British Columbians, that’s his legacy—does he deserve the Order of B.C. for that?

How would voters have felt if former NDP premier Glen Clark, who resigned in disgrace in 1999, had received the Order of B.C. in 2000? Or Vander Zalm in 1991?

Then there’s Ken Dobell who has been close to Campbell for years. He was city manager when Campbell was mayor of Vancouver and later became a deputy minister and special advisor to the premier. Now he’s a lobbyist. In 2006, Dobell became the first person to be successfully prosecuted under the Lobbyists Registry Act. He received an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to violating the legislation. He gets in as a “dedicated public servant” and not excellence in lobbying.

And how about David Emerson? Emerson has certainly done some great work in the public and private sector, but most will remember the former federal industry minister for betraying the voters of Vancouver-Kingsway. They re-elected him as a Liberal in 2006, yet he arrogantly crossed the floor to join Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper days later.

Adding a further insult is the fact Campbell should not be eligible for an Order of B.C. this year. Nominees “must not currently be an elected person with federal, provincial or municipal governments.” The submission deadline was March 10. Yet Campbell was still an MLA at the time—he resigned five days later.

Also curious is the timing of the announcement. This year’s recipients were named on the Friday before a long weekend, a time when a lot of people are guaranteed not to be paying attention. Last year, the announcement was made on Aug. 6, a Thursday.

These appointments reek of political patronage and tarnish the good name of the Order of B.C.

Certainly a case can be made for Campbell in future, but remember, Bill Bennett received the Order of B.C. 21 years after leaving office. No other premier has received it. If Campbell is in, why not former premier and Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt, which time remembers as a good guy with a bad cabinet?

Campbell’s appointment should be rescinded and the province needs to review the Order of B.C.’s selection committee. Political cynicism should have no place with this worthy honour.

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