--> Getting It Right: Larry, Larry, Quite Contrary

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Larry, Larry, Quite Contrary

On April 15, 2005 Larry Campbell was front and centre, along with Gordon Campbell and Paul Martin, at the ceremonial signing of the Federal gas-tax transfer to the Province of B.C.

By all accounts it was a historic occasion and an opportunity to free some of the usurious gas tax collected by Ottawa for local requirements.

The Feds clearly weren’t interested in a tax cut for consumers in their typical “government know best” fashion – but maybe this was a good alternative.

Larry Campbell told anyone who would listen about the importance of this agreement to the cities and the leadership that the Federal Liberals were showing on the issue. Of course, he didn’t mention that the Federal Liberals had been in power for 13 years and, only when faced with an immenient and scandal-driven election, were pulling out the cash card for local governments.

When Conservative Leader Stephen Harper rightly pointed out that, under our constitution, the money would actually be sent to the Provinces and then distributed to Canadian cities, Larry Campbell said the Conservatives were treating the cities like children and would take away the gas tax funding.

Stephen Harper travelled to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in St. John’s in June and announced that the Conservatives would support the transfer, honour existing agreements and provide equitable funding for provinces that had not yet signed. In addition, he committed to match or exceed the $5 billion in funds promised by Paul Martin.

Larry Campbell said that Stephen Harper wasn’t to be trusted, was embarrassing the country and was going to hurt the country with his “political brinkmanship”.

His dabbling in Federal politics raised eyebrows, that’s for sure, but none of it was surprising stuff from Larry Campbell. The reason his personal popularity was so high before his resignation a few weeks ago was his refusal to let the facts get in the way of a good sound bite.

We all just thought Larry was being Larry and perhaps acting a little ham-fisted in his drive to ensure the Federal funds landed in Vancouver’s rapidly depleting city coffers. The transfer would mean that the City could hold the line on property taxes, even in despite of the increases in city spending since the COPE term began in 2002.

Turns out, though, that Larry knew exactly what he was doing – paving his way for a post-City Hall career. For the man who “isn’t a politician”, Tuesday afternoon’s announcement of a lucrative Senate appointment sure made him look like one.

It’s also a pretty nice payback for his loyal Federal Liberal pit bull service in this spring’s “phony election”. As Harper and Martin grappled in the House, Larry Campbell was pulling no punches forecasting disaster for Canadian cities if the Conservatives were successful in defeating the Liberals with a non-confidence vote.

Fortunately for the Liberals, Belinda Stronach’s eye-popping defection precluded that possibility, but Martin clearly hasn’t forgotten his kilt-clad sycophant.

Unlike the Conservatives who pledge to shift the Senate to an elected one, the Liberals are quite happy to reward their friends and insiders for their partisan efforts with high-paying and low-work Red Chamber appointments.

Well done Larry. I’m not sure why we ever thought you were a different kind of politician – turns out you are just like the rest.

(As seen today in 24 Hours Daily)

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