Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Premier Gordon Campbell's new press secretary a surprise choice given controversy with Campbell in 1996 election campaign

I was completely surprised by the announcement Tuesday that TV broadcaster Bridgette Anderson had taken the position of BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell's press secretary.

Surprised because of a past controversy during the 1996 provincial election campaign, which Campbell narrowly lost to NDP Premier Glen Clark.

Anderson was then the Victoria-based political reporter for UTV [the station that has also been known as CKVU.] At that time I was Communications Director in the Premier's office and, during the election, campaign tour communications director.

On May 10, 1996 - just 18 days before the vote - Campbell made a bad attempt at humour on the campaign trail after being asked by Anderson about his lack of warmth and polls that found him personally a drag on the party.

Watching the 6 p.m. television news after campaigning had ended, our election team was stunned at the reports of Campbell's ill-advised comments and actions.

An accurate accounting of the incident comes from a Fraser Institute report on election coverage in the 1996 and 1991 provincial elections:

Part of the negative attention to Gordon Campbell resulted from his earlier interview with UTV reporter Bridgette Anderson. Just as Liberal leader John Turner before him was haunted by the "bum-patting" incident in 1984, Campbell was considered overly friendly in 1996.

Ironically the offending incident occurred when Anderson asked Campbell about his image problem: "Today in Kelowna, he was back on the campaign trail trying to reshape his image. But that image may have suffered a setback when I asked him about the new Gordon Campbell. . . .

Critics have said that you're not known as a very warm kind of human being. Are you trying to change that image?"

Campbell responded by putting his arm around Anderson and saying: "I sure am Bridge, no question about that."

Although Campbell apologized for his actions, the incident was reported on all three stations. BCTV's Keith Baldry went so far as to say on May 10, 1996: "On to another topic, Pamela. Of course a lot of attention was paid to Gordon Campbell's economic plan, but it was somewhat overshadowed by an event involving Mr. Campbell on the campaign trail in Kelowna."

While UTV and BCTV showed some restraint by placing this story after reports of the Liberal economic plan, CBC launched the night's news with the incident. In introducing the story, anchor Erica Johnson made this comment: "But no sooner had the Liberal leader taken his new image and tax plan on the road today than his campaign was on the defensive. One brief gesture almost derailed the day's closely scripted plan."

I remember the response of some of the female Clark campaign members at the time. "That's creepy," one said, while others were simply astonished.

The incident should not be overemphasized but it hurt Campbell with women voters at a time when the election battle was neck and neck.

Anderson, while obviously rattled by Campbell's actions, remained a professional journalist throughout and did not attempt to make more of it than the story that day.
Still, I shook my head upon hearing that she had gone to work as Campbell's press secretary.

I wish Bridgette well - she is not a political person in my view but the premier's staff are hired to defend the premier and improve his image - and that may be a real challenge.


Gary E said...

Maybe it's a case of "kepp your friends close and your enemies closer"
Although I'm not sure which would be which in this case.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Ms. Anderson was over 50, slightly height and weight challenged . . . if would she be "working" with Premier Campbell ?

I wonder how good her Vancouver limo driving skills are ?


Anonymous said...

Power is an aphrodisiac? Gord likes blondes. There have been times when Gord is being interviewed by an attractive female journalist when my wife has said " Oh geez..he`s coming on to her!"
Dear leader likes the ladies.

Budd Campbell said...

Bill, ... your story here provoked me to ask the following, and hope that you will dig it up for us. Where is former BC Attorney General Douglas "Bud" Smith, and where is his favourite reporter, "Rocky"? We don't seem to have had any recent follow-up on them since an Entertainment Tonite item in the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that the same Premier who smiled during his DUI arrest in Hawaii? What if he drove over the centre-line and slaughtered a family? Canwest downplayed this insult to humanity:
Click "Free" option.

Anonymous said...

This is off topic but what happens to whistle-blowers when they testify in face of Canwest stringers? They get smeared:
I attended sessions (yesterday and today) of the Frank Paul Inquiry, where Dana Urban (former counsel to the Office of the Police Complaint Commission) testified. The cross-examination of Urban by Joseph Arvay, wasn't discreditative. Urban - a former prosecutor - parried every probe, which Arvay - who represented the UBC students in the APEC Inquiry - dutifully made. Yet the stringer portrays him like a bloodied fighter on the ropes. Urban left the witness stand like a true champion.

Dollars for dimes says that Canwest will front-page said CP smear tomorrow. Note: Urban rejected 1 and 2 days suspensions of cops whose conduct led to death by exposure of a man who clearly required detoxification. That hardly makes him a villian. Of course, if the Aspers want hero-cop reportage, then I guess that requires diabolization of good people. Milton didn't prescribe that in Areopagitaca.

tinaz said...

Hi Bill,

In the National Post today, I read that the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an appeal of an Ottawa Citizen libel case that could greatly expand legal protection for journalists who responsibly report stories in the public interest. Canwest Global Communications Corp. was also granted leave.

The matter that will be heard at the SCC should be right down your alley because keep in mind that the elites and those in power are trying to kill the messenger at any costs.

Public interests should be more important than reputations of certain individuals, which I won't name at this time, but you know who I mean.

I know you are very concern about libel suits and therefore you should consider doing an interveners position at the Supreme Court of Canada, in the interest of your profession, which is in a serious crises at this time.

You don't need to be a lawyer to know how to intervene in a case, especially when you have rights that are being infringed upon.

Albeit the press don't and won't admit being controlled, fact is, journalists always write with the fear of being sued and as such journalists are not telling the whole truth that is of public interest and that should concern you and concern all reporters around the world.

Tina Z

tinaz said...


following is the link of the article I told you about a few minutes ago.

Tina Z

BC Mary said...


Am I the only person who gets totally weirded out every time I pass by that colour photo of Joy MacPhail locked in the grip of some guy who looks vaguely familiar?


Anonymous said...

No, BC Mary, you're not the only one.

Anonymous said...

To Bill, BC Mary & the Gang . . .


BC Mary said...

Memo to Joy MacPhail:

That sure is one strange bedfellow.