column was published in the
May 12, 1999)
chief and premier to go
By Leo Knight
are few things as pathetic as someone trying to cling to power
when it's clear they are not wanted.
the news in the past few weeks have been the trials and
tribulations of the Premier Glen Clark and Vancouver Police
Chief Bruce Chambers. On the surface the two men have about as
much in common as Gregorian chants and rap music.
have risen to the top of their respective professions, albeit
via much different paths.
enough, both seem doomed to be forced from their offices at
approximately the same time and for some of the same traits that
define each of them.
marked his reign after seizing power in the NDP by entrenching
all the power within his office and his few close advisors, most
notably Adrian Dix and Tom Gunton.
brought his vision for the VPD with him from Thunder Bay,
Ontario. He quickly let it be known he didn't give a fig for the
considered experience of those who have been here for years and
surrounded himself with a few close advisors, most notably
Deputy Chief Brian MacGuinness and Inspector Ken Doern.
Clark was able to get his foot into the premier's door by
staging a palace coup and shoving Mike Harcourt out of the back
then moved quickly to ensure there were no pretenders to the
throne by removing power from ministerial high-flyers and
reducing his cabinet colleagues to lackeys dependent upon him
for the perks and privileges of office.
Chambers did Clark one better. Following the politicking for the
top job in Vancouver -- won by a perceived interloper --
Chambers got rid of several deputy chiefs and a number of senior
inspectors in a series of forced retirements that cost the city
a substantial amount of money in severance.
it served to remove such candidates for the job as Deputy Chief
Rick Stevens from the corridors of power.
Clark got his tush firmly planted in the leather swivel chair
behind the premier's desk, he set about racking up record
provincial debt and the deficit budget after deficit budget.
to be outdone, Chambers fell $3 million short on his '98/'99
budget, his first full year on the job -- something that's never
been done before by a chief constable. Certainly not in Clark's
league for sheer numbers, but done through a stubbornness borne
of ego, which Clark knows a little something about.
Clark got himself in a spot of bother when the Mounties came
knocking on his door with a search warrant. His handyman cum
neighbour cum apparent good buddy, Dimitrios Pilarinos, built an
extension on his east end house and a deck on his summer retreat
in the southern Okanagan, apparently donating his labour, while
being a partner in a numbered company seeking a casino licence
from Clark's cabinet.
chief blundered his way into an RCMP breathalyser roadblock and
had to be separated from his company car and ordered into a taxi
for the remainder of his trip. He then was front and centre in
the Christmas ICBC roadcheck media campaign.
the days and weeks following the RCMP's visit to Casa Clark, the
premier was virtually invisible.
autocratic, combative style was nowhere to be seen. His cabinet
colleagues, meanwhile, were publicly supportive, but privately
were discussing his "exit strategy."
for his part, went AWOL for several days after being snubbed by
the police board, his employers, over a staffing issue involving
the punitive transfer of a staff sergeant against the wishes of
Saturday night he was to be a head table guest at the annual
military ball held at the Bayshore.
arrangements having been made weeks earlier, there were two
empty chairs at the head table without so much as a phone call
of apology to the organizers.
both are facing attempts from within to unseat them. Clark is
going on the offensive prior to a June party convention date
which was to have been a new start with a new leader and now
seems more likely to be a fight to the finish with a clear
victor yet to be determined.
Esko Kajander, the president of the Vancouver Police Officers
Association, has approached the police board to make a
presentation to them outlining the VPOA's concerns. This will
be, essentially, a non-confidence motion in Chambers. The
Vancouver Police Union is lined up with the VPOA. Without the
support of both of those organizations, Chambers is finished.
The only remaining question is when.
police board in Vancouver has to decide what to do with their
chief entering the last year of a three-year contract.
terms of the contract require the board to advise the chief if
they will be renewing his contract at the end of the second
they decide not to renew, and this is the most likely scenario,
they will have to buy out his remaining year and appoint a
caretaker chief, most likely Deputy Chief Constable Terry
one senior sergeant, "The problem with the chief is his
arrogance. His complete ruthless arrogance. He consults with no
one. He listens to no one. If he doesn't like you he simply
turns his back on you while you're talking and looks out the
out the word "chief" and insert "premier"
and the statement is just as accurate.
men last week were attempting to cling on to their office.
Chambers said he intends to be chief for the next five years.
then learned he has hired a lawyer, sending the message he will
not go quietly.
meanwhile, was busy trying to convince anyone who'd listen that
he was going to lead his party into the next election.
Clark and Chambers are mortally wounded professionally.
has the support of his subordinates and the public has lost
confidence in each man.
at the end of the day, neither can accept the fact they are the
authors of their own misfortune.
time to go is now. Before any more damage is done.