I thought Gordon Campbell was brave and foolhardy (mostly just foolhardy), when he led B.C. to become the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a carbon tax.
The tax actually led to a surge in the polls for the otherwise moribund NDP and its leader, Carole James.
But as he campaigns for a third term as B.C.’s premier, I have come to believe that Campbell is a lot smarter than he looks — or looked last year when he introduced yet another gas tax.
I should have known. Gas-guzzling taxpayers were appalled at the jump in the price at the pump, but Campbell immediately started enjoying praise from a most unlikely sector — environmentalists.
The David Suzuki Foundation called the tax “a landmark decision in North America as far as government addressing global warming.” At the time, it looked like cold consolation, but as the campaign chugs along to May 12, Campbell’s strategy to seize and hold the environmental high ground looks golden, never mind just green.
It got really ugly for poor Carole James last week when Tzeporah Berman, arguably the second most prominent environmentalist in the province behind Saint David Z., publicly repudiated the NDP for “putting politicking before the planet in the most hypocritical fashion.” Ouch.
Ms. James didn’t help her cause on Earth Day when she invited the media to board a float plane and witness the devastation from run-of-river power projects near Squamish. It would help if the pilot could find the alleged devastation instead of circling around helplessly. The so-called run-of-river controversy deserves a column of its own, but whatever you think, Carole James doesn’t look good wasting carbon while engaging in a media stunt that falls flat.
I sympathize. What else is the NDP going to fight this campaign on? The economy? The last time the NDP was in power, Glen Clark stimulated the economy all right. Too bad it was Alberta’s, as business after business packed up and moved to the jurisdiction next door with the big smile and the lowest corporate taxes on Earth.
So even though Ms. James is fighting an election against a government that has presided over the biggest economic downtown and job loss in recent times, she has been side-tracked by an issue that has only served to alienate her friends and mystify the media.
And that’s exactly where Gordon Campbell wants her to be.