Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Turpel-Lafond For Premier!

Kash Heed, BC's one-time new wunderkind top cop, has just set the new and unlikely to ever be broken record for the shortest comeback in political history. Having resigned with some dignity a fortnight ago for relatively petty fund-raising irregularities in his riding, he surges back for less than 24 hours only to be toppled by a somewhat more startling revelation: Terrence Robertson, the crown prosecutor assigned to check out the first infractions and who cleared Heed of wrongdoing, turns out to have been from a law firm that had donated to the same campaign that was under Robertson's investigation. CBC calls this "the latest twist in a complicated political story," but I think it's not very complicated at all, much less so than my struggling teenager's Grade 10 math homework. It ain't corruption but, rather, blundering stupidity and that charge sticks right up into the Premier's office, if not orifice.

In turn, this is really so minuscule a failing compared to so much of what Gordon Campbell and his gang's hopefully sunset years (better if it's months) have entailed. Gord began his reign doing his Edward Scissorhands routine and has continued to work hard, when not letting his hair down in Hawaii, to deconstruct the provincial educational and medical systems. He threw all sorts of money at trying to pry open somewhat apocryphal moratoria on offshore oil and gas and no doubt, had he been successful, would have demanded a standard of environmental precaution at least as lax as the Gulf Coast of the USA to where his government dispatched numerous field trips so that we could learn from their impeccable engineering! In a Throne Speech shortly after the IOC's decision to let Lotusland host the Winter Olympics, the Campbell Government was even drivelling about lighting the torch with fuel pumped up from beneath the Queen Charlotte Basin! This monumental ignorance of what offshore exploration and development entails must have made even the most enthusiastic proponents wince.

Since then, offshore oil and gas for BC has crawled back into its cave, but Campbell and company continue to find other ways to devastate the social and physical environment. Most recently, having announced the highly improbable re-entry of the Site C dam on the Peace, they introduced legislation to try to stifle the work of one of BC's and Canada's most passionate public servants, Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the province's Representative for Children and Youth. This was a position created as a result of the 2005-6 Hughes review of British Columbia’s child protection system, following in the literal wake of countless cases where children purportedly under BC's care, were harmed, often mortally.

Turpel-Lafond was such a good choice that it's hard to believe the Campbell government made it. Hailing from the remote indigenous community of Norway House in northern Manitoba, she has been twice cited in Time Magazine as a young leader to watch, nationally and globally. She has a law doctorate from Harvard and a master's from Cambridge. She and the great national Aboriginal leader Ovide Mercredi co-authored a superb book about First Nations struggles, In the Rapids. One could go on but this is enough to say that when, inevitably, Campbell et al. reverted to their nature and blindsided Ms. Turpel-Lafond with legislation restricting her access to information to do her job, she didn't back down. As it stands, she will take the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Children and Family Development to court over the new legislation. Definitely the wrong person to screw around with, Gord-O!

As this tragicomedy unfolds, the larger picture issue of provincial leadership hoves into view for me. I think of how Carol James, the NDP leader, has not ignited much enthusiasm as a potential alternative and also of how there have been increasing public musings on the need for a third party (again!) in BC - like we didn't get into enough of a mess as a result of Campbell's coup of the fallible but worthy Gordon Wilson's single-handed resurrection of the Liberal Party.

But I don't care who drafts her - a new party, the NDP or the faltering Canucks - we are indeed fortunate to have the likes of Turpel-Lafond at the helm of so crucial a portfolio as she now holds, and I want to be first to say that there is an even bigger ship of state, badly in need of her trusted, capable and knowing hands. Whether as the leader of a new party or - if the NDP has any smarts - of the current opposition, let's start the call now: Mary-Ellen for Premier!