By BILL TIELEMAN
A week is a long time in politics.
Premier Gordon Campbell is reportedly deeply opposed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's legislation to force voters to remove burkhas or veils before casting a ballot so they can be identified.
That's because after the past week, Campbell may not want to show his face in the next provincial election.
Until recently the B.C. Liberal leader has been on cruise control, enjoying a buoyant economy and a 10-point lead over the B.C. NDP. Then the political roof caved in:
- Campbell's top advisor, Ken Dobell, is under investigation by a special prosecutor over allegations he violated the Lobbyist Registration Act by lobbying the provincial government without registering.
- Campbell's former labour minister, Graham Bruce, is also alleged to have violated those rules by lobbying for the Cowichan Tribes. And Bruce was allegedly conducting paid lobbying before a two-year "cooling off" period expired when ex-ministers are to avoid influencing government, which may violate the Conflict of Interest Act.
- Despite earlier Campbell claims, the new Vancouver Convention Centre expansion would be built on budget, that price has nearly doubled to $883 million - $388 million extra - and last week, Auditor-General Errol Price said costs may go even higher. This is one time when the Price is right. And Dobell chaired the Convention Centre project board until April.
- Linda Reid, Minister of State for Child Care, got caught in an incredibly foolish decision to distribute thousands of child booster seats for low-income parents - but only through B.C. Liberal MLA constituency offices - "boosting" only her party.
- A pre-trial hearing in the breach of trust case against former government ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk was told Friday by a defence lawyer that 25,000 new pages of evidence may "impact certain cabinet ministers" in Campbell's government. More disclosure applications will be heard in December, with the trial to start in March 2008.
Unfortunately for Campbell, most of these problems lead back to the premier's office.
Dobell was his senior deputy minister for years and continues to be a highly paid private advisor to Campbell, though he has now taken a leave.
The allegations against Bruce include claims he met twice with Campbell about funding for the Cowichan Tribes to hold the North American Indigenous Games in 2008. The Cowichan and Bruce deny any wrongdoing.
And at the Convention Centre launch on Nov. 8, 2004, Campbell made this confident boast: "There are contingencies built into the project, and it's going to be run professionally. This will be built on time and on budget ... Count on it."
The only thing Campbell can now count on is deep trouble.