First published Oct 13/09 at Northern Insights / Perceptivity:
I recall Colin Hansen speaking as an opposition critic about the problems of BC Ferries a decade ago. He noted successive provincial governments had failed to install competent management and had subjected the corporation to impulsive political interference. Hansen expressed concerns about conduct of government business. He talked about the need for carefully structured planning, extensive consultation, full disclosure, orderly review and systematic risk analysis.
Hansen struck me then as thoughtful, insightful and articulate. He seemed relaxed and forthright. In short, both knowledgeable and trustworthy.
After the election of Gordon Campbell's Liberals, it was not surprising that Hansen played a senior role. He spent about three and a half years as Minister of Health, a position that presents near insoluble difficulties, conflicts and expanding demands. While not hugely successful there, Hansen was far from the worst health minister to hold the difficult portfolio.
Observers of early Liberal days sensed palpable ambition of a few cabinet ministers but Hansen's name didn't much surface. At least publicly, he kept further ambitions discretely leashed and attended to business. Now, fast forward to 2009 and we find Hansen playing the sidekick role, the Premier's beardless Fuzzy Q. Jones, a specialist in cultivated subservience.
From the moment that Deceiver Campbell and Colin Hansen announced the HST, the Minister of Finance looked pained and discomforted. In interviews, he relies on verbal contortions and vagueness, trying to avoid ownership of the Liberal's obvious pre-election guile. But, that could only work if the population were to suffer a broad lapse of logic and common sense.
Hansen admitted that on the day HST takes effect, prices won't decline. But, perhaps, "They will rise less than they otherwise would rise." A safe statement that because it can't be proven right or wrong now or in the future.
Hansen declares, "HST is a much more fair tax than the PST it is replacing. Think tanks are saying that shifting taxes to consumers is a good thing for the economy, the single best thing we can do."
Quelle surprise! Yes, good common folks like those at business supported think tanks all agree; business should pay less tax and consumers should pay more, even if those are searingly regressive.
I'm reminded of a story told by John DeLorean about his installation in the seventies on the prestigious 14th floor of General Motors' headquarters, a place designed to bless its occupants with an aura of sacrosanct wisdom. DeLorean said these men were hemmed in by tradition, swamped in paper work and totally in thrall to their company careers. And, with great salaries, bonuses and stock options, each and every executive was a multi-millionaire, totally out of touch with the customers needed to maintain their lives of luxury - a prescient prediction we know now.
So the BC Liberals deigned not to talk to the electorate about a fundamental tax shift. They consulted with The Progress Board, a committee of 12 millionaire business people from around the province, and the infamous Fraser Institute where even multi-millionaires are held to be disadvantaged, unlike their billionaire colleagues.
How dare BC Liberals ever speak of holding a mandate of the people. The May general election was an out and out fraud, conducted at the behest of an inveterate liar to enable duplicitous politicians and friends to continue bottom trawling the province for greater wealth.
The question left in my mind is this. Did I misjudge Colin Hansen a decade ago or has he changed? Perhaps he fell victim to group-think. LSE social psychologist Sandra Jovchelovitch says that:
When individuals are insulated in a group, are very much part of a group with a common background, a common set of ideas and practices, they will tend to behave in a way that forgets larger moral values, that forgets acceptable social norms, that forgets how one is expected to behave in relation to the wider society.
I offer this advice to Colin Hansen. Your character is worth more than the power, influence and luxuries of this job. At your funeral, no one will speak of riches, people will talk about character and human qualities of courage, honesty, reverence for nature, self-sacrifice and strength.
Mr. Hansen, your body language reveals you are uncomfortable. Resign and keep your remaining honor intact.