(This column was published in the North Shore News on Nov. 20, 2002)

 

Can Campbell keep control?

 By Leo Knight

WELL, that was quite an election, now wasn't it?

 

It's not surprising that Larry Campbell won the mayor's chair in Vancouver. No, in fact I bet a buddy well over a month ago he would win. The clean sweep by the COPE slate was the astounding part.

 

Campbell, former Mountie drug squad corporal and subsequently chief coroner of B.C., is a moderate by any analysis. Fiscally conservative and socially conscious, Campbell now finds himself leading leftist ideologues that I suspect he has little in common with.

 

Alongside the new mayor are the likes of Tim Stevenson, who was an NDP MLA under the Clark administration and had a cup of coffee at the cabinet table in the dying days of the moribund Dosanjh government.

 

Then there's the bombastic Jim Green, an American who got involved in DERA (Downtown Eastside Residents Association) and ran it in his aggressive style through the '80s.

 

But with the advent of an NDP government in the '90s he magically transformed from a plaid-shirt-and-blue-jeans type of guy to a double-breasted suit and tasseled-loafers. It's amazing what a few friends in power can do to help out an image in crisis.

 

Green went on to head the Four Corners Bank, one of the stupidest ideas a government awash in stupid ideas ever came up with. To no one's surprise outside the NDP, the bank was unsuccessful. Oddly enough there just wasn't enough money to be made cashing welfare cheques to support a financial institution.

 

And these are the new mayor's shining lights on council.

 

There's also no doubt the Libs of the other Campbell are keeping a watchful eye on the upstart mayor-elect. From a political point of view it seems entirely likely the Vancouver City council will become the de facto opposition to Gordon Campbell's government. You can look for this in areas of financial cutbacks by Victoria, especially relative to education and health care.

 

But there's bound to be conflicts. Not the least of which will be the inevitable fracas over whether there should be a referendum on the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympic bid. But it surely won't end there.

 

In fact, the day after the election, Premier Gordon Campbell made a mistake which I believe will come back to haunt him. He said the singular issue of the Downtown Eastside and the so-called Four Pillars approach was a local matter.

 

The premier will come to eat those words if he doesn't step up to the plate on this and become a part of a process to clean up the fetid mess that is home to the worst elements of society.

 

The area is an open, festering wound on Vancouver. Main and Hastings is an open air drug bazaar the like of which is to be found nowhere else in the world.

 

At any given time of the day or night, you will find any number of dope pedlars offering everything from grass to crack, "E" to heroin, eight balls, "spicballs," it's all available and as open as could possibly be.

 

In the laneways of the 100 East Hastings, junkies pick at scabs in long-collapsed veins hoping to find an unused spot to jam today's avenue to nirvana.

 

The administration of justice in British Columbia is the responsibility of the provincial government. Property crime is rising at alarming levels and so too, is violent crime. The Downtown Eastside is an integral part of the cycle of crime. The premier would do well to get his head around that.

 

You can also look for the NDP to start wooing Larry Campbell. He has something no one else on their horizon has - electability. Approaches will be made to the new mayor-elect very soon to at least think of the provincial scene.

 

Let's face it; the provincial NDP is bankrupt of talent. They couldn't elect a dogcatcher provincially, and rightly so given their track record. They will view someone with the charisma and credibility of Larry Campbell as the Messiah come down from the Mount ready to lead the people to the Promised Land.

 

It's a shallow point of view, but it is all too common in today's political scene.

 

How things evolve will come down to who the mayor-elect surrounds himself with. If he allows the NDP and the hard-left COPE crowd to bring in all those unemployed NDP political hacks then he will have lost control before he even had it.

 

One couldn't help but notice Glen Clark playing to the crowd at the COPE victory party at Library Square. If he gets his nose inside the shop, the likes of Geoff Meggs, Adrian Dix et al are sure to follow.

 

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