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Big Ideas, Tiny Attention Span

Meet Gordon 'Five Great Goals' Campbell.

Bill Tieleman 28 Apr

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Tieleman can be heard Mondays at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at E-mail him at or visit his blog at

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Praising literacy, cutting librarians.

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do. -- Andrew Carnegie

British Columbia has seen many firsts in its exciting political history and another first has recently been achieved by Premier Gordon Campbell.

Doug Jung became the first Chinese-Canadian member of Parliament when he was elected in B.C. in 1957 as a Conservative.

B.C. was embarrassed by having the first cabinet minister in the Commonwealth to be convicted of bribery when ex-forests minister Robert Sommers was found guilty in 1958.

Dave Barrett became not only the first New Democratic Party premier in 1972 but the first of Jewish origin as well.

Rita Johnston of Social Credit was B.C.'s first woman premier and Kim Campbell was a B.C. member of Parliament when she was appointed Canada's first woman prime minister.

The NDP's Moe Sihota became the province's first Indo-Canadian cabinet minister in 1991 and Ujjal Dosanjh its first Indo-Canadian premier in 2000.

And then there's the B.C. Liberals' Gordon Campbell -- the premier with what has to be the shortest attention span in B.C. history.

The facts are very clear -- just check back and watch Campbell get excited about and then lose interest in almost every big idea he has had.

Five late goals

Remember Campbell's 2005 throne speech? He launched "Five Great Goals for a Golden Decade."

In case you have an equally short attention span as the premier, here they are:

  1. Make B.C. the best-educated, most literate place in North America.
  2. Make B.C. a model for healthy living and physical fitness.
  3. Build the best system of support in Canada for persons with disabilities, special needs, children at risk and seniors.
  4. Lead the world in sustainable environmental management.
  5. Lead Canada in job creation.

Now, as you might guess, some of these goals are no longer, well, golden, and they won't likely be met this decade or any other one.

Take number five -- last month British Columbia certainly led Canada -- but in losing 23,000 jobs, not creating them.

And yesterday, Statistics Canada reported that B.C.'s economy actually shrank in 2008 -- for the first time since the recession of 1982. The province's gross domestic product dropped by 0.3 per cent while Canada's overall GDP grew by 0.5 per cent.

Or look at number three -- unfortunately B.C. once again leads the country -- in having the worst child poverty rate of any province.

Reading incomprehension

But at least we're consistent, because under Campbell's government B.C. has the worst rate for five years in a row, according to advocacy group First Call, from 2003 through 2008.

And don't forget number one -- making B.C. the most literate place in North America. I guess that means restoring the hundreds of teacher-librarian positions the B.C. Liberals cut in their first term -- but I don't recall seeing that news release.

There's lots more, of course. Campbell held the most divisive referendum ever attacking aboriginal treaty rights shortly after being elected -- now he is planning a Recognition Act that will give First Nations those rights through legislation.

Campbell slashed the public service with a vengeance in his first term -- now he worries about how to recruit and retain government workers.

Anyway, the good thing about political attention deficit disorder is that... what were we talking about?

Oh yeah, Gordon Campbell.

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