(This column was published in the North Shore News on Nov. 27, 2002)


Is Larry Campbell in control?

 By Leo Knight

Well, it apparently didn't take long for Larry Campbell to get tamed by his new-found political friends.


Less than 24 hours after the mayor-elect in Vancouver was given the benefit of the doubt in this space, he announced the appointment of Geoff Meggs as his communications director.


Meggs was in the same position in the administration of former Premier Glen Clark who resigned in disgrace.


In the ensuing months after the RCMP executed a search warrant on Clark's East Vancouver home, Meggs led the spirited defence against the public backlash demanding the premier's resignation.


Meggs would say to anyone who'd listen that his boss did nothing wrong and it was all a vast media conspiracy. He even tried to place yours truly in the frame for reasons best known to himself.


It was all nonsense of course.


The Vrahnos memo was tidily locked in Sun reporter Rick Ouston's desk gathering dust while he tanned on a Hawaiian beach when the RCMP raided the North Burnaby Inn and, later the same day, Clark's own home. Some conspiracy.


When Clark finally resigned, months after he should have, Meggs and the rest of Clark's loyalists found themselves out of jobs.


Not for long for Meggs though. His old pals in Big Labour came to the rescue making him communications director for the BC Fed.


Now Campbell has allowed a part of what was wrong with the NDP, which steered this province from first to worst in less than 10 years, into his new administration.


There are two possibilities at play here.


Either Campbell is not in control and is being managed, or he has become something foreign to his past. And pity the City of Vancouver whichever the case.


Already newly-elected councillor and long-time socialist, Jim Green, is picking fights with the provincial government of Gordon Campbell. A portent of things to come, me thinks?


At a time when there needs to be co-operation between the two levels of government on issues like the Downtown Eastside and the 2010 Olympic Bid, we are likely going to see little more than partisan politics and the attenuating posturing which guarantees little of substance will get done.


The issue of the Downtown Eastside dominated the mayoralty campaign. Stupidity and backstabbing aside, it was the issue which killed the aspirations of Jennifer Clarke who thought her path to the corner office at 12th and Cambie was clear, only to find dirty needles and junkies in her way.


She apparently didn't understand the importance of the situation as a political issue until it was too late and with her privileged past, couldn't summon the "street cred" needed to speak with authority on the subject.


Unfortunately, while there needs to be more treatment opportunities available for hard drug abusers, there also needs to be strong enforcement by the police and the courts. The political left simply won't recognize that junkies cannot be trusted with anything from the family silverware to their word.


They will say anything they think you want to hear just to get closer to their next fix.


And it will be the hand-wringing socialists, now moving in to Vancouver city hall, who will fall victim to the junkies' scam time and again.


Unless they are prepared to force treatment through strict drug courts, the whole concept of safe injection sites and the rest will be a complete waste of time, taxpayers' money and resources which could be used to accomplish something real for the downtrodden neighbourhood.


In simple terms, there is no point in just providing safe injection sites or even free dope unless you are prepared to enforce participation in treatment and contain the abusers until such time as they are prepared to deal with their addiction.


And it is their addiction, not mine or yours.


There are limits to what society as a whole can accomplish unless and until the afflicted agree to be a part of their own rehabilitation.


Let's not forget that the areas around the safe injection sites will be rife with dope dealers looking to bring their wares to an eager and awaiting clientele. How many neighbourhoods will be accepting of such sites given that reality?


In the meantime, mayor-elect Campbell has been taking a kicking on eastern radio talk shows. That is interesting because he will need an amendment to an Act of Parliament to establish the so-called safe injection sites. And if public opinion in Ontario, driven by the popular talk shows ridiculing Campbell, is against the concept, it seems unlikely the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien will do anything.


And then what? The loony lefties will prod Campbell to move anyway further pushing the City of Vancouver away from the rest of the country.


All good intentions aside, partisan politics, it seems, will ensure this issue will become even more convoluted as time goes on. And the worst neighbourhood in the country will sink further into the abyss.






NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that the reference to Vancouver Sun reporter Rick Ouston in the column may leave the reader with the impression that somehow Ouston wasn’t doing his job or was somehow malfeasant. Nothing could be further from the truth and was certainly not my intent. I used the reference to Ouston simply to show there was no conspiracy such as claimed by Meggs.   


In point of fact, Ouston had initiated enquiries and had filed at least one Freedom of Information Act request based on his enquiries. His Hawaii trip had been booked long before he got the tip (and the memo) and he left on his trip believing the story would hold. What he couldn’t possibly have known is that the RCMP were elbows deep into an investigation that would lead to the raid on the North Burnaby Inn and ultimately to the execution of a search warrant on the Premier’s home, famously captured on video by BCTV reporter John Daly and his cameraman.


Also unknown to Ouston was the source who provided him with the memo had given it elsewhere and it made its way to others’ hands in the media, myself included.


Perhaps it’s all old hat now these many years later, but with the internet all things live forever.  And I wanted to ensure the record was clear. 


-Leo Knight

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