Gordon Campbell lives on in the 'new' NPA
If you thought the NPA’s reputation as a Gordon Campbell farm team ended when the BC Liberals quietly shuffled Campbell off to Harperland, you thought wrong.
In fact, it seems to be just the opposite. The NPA have brought in some big Campbell cheese to help run the organization.
First, there’s Mike Klassen, the guy behind the guy who helped bring BC the HST. Klassen was campaign manager to Colin Hansen, the finance minister responsible for ushering in the HST, and was at his side as Hansen talked his way through the 2009 election about the deficit and HST.
Following that debacle, Klassen decided to bring his talents to City Hall, co-founding the NPA blog CityCaucus.com with former NPA chief of staff Daniel Fontaine, and positioning himself for a run for Council.
I note that Klassen has accused me -- in a recent BC Business article -- of engineering a hatchet job on him. Here’s what I did: I discovered that Klassen ran Mayor Sam Sullivan’s web communications out of the mayor’s office. But when I ran an FOI request for Klassen's city contracts, I didn't find any. Sullivan’s office authorized over $30,000 in payments to Klassen without a contract, against city policy.
But Klassen isn’t the only Campbell Liberal in this year’s batch of NPA hopefuls and backroom players. This spring the NPA got a boost when one of Campbell’s big donors, Peter Amstrong, came on board as the NPA Campaign Chair and chief fundraiser.
Armstrong was one of Campbell’s biggest individual financial backers, donating more than a quarter of a million personally and through his company Great Canadian Railtours, now called Armstrong Group, the owner in turn of Rocky Mountaineer Railtours.
Armstrong’s company is currently in the news due to a lockout of its service staff. But just as interesting is Armstrong’s possible involvement in the BC Rail scandal.
Great Canadian wouldn’t have been as successful as it is without its 2004 purchase of the rights to BC Rail’s passenger service, a purchase engineered by Gordon Campbell.
In 2002 the Campbell government changed the law to allow BC Rail to sell off its passenger operations. At the same time, it was preparing to sell BC Rail to another big BC Liberal financial supporter, CN Rail.
Within a year and a half CN bought BC Rail, and Armstrong's Rocky Mountaineer trains were rumbling down CN tracks -- the result of a request for proposals answered by Great Canadian Railtours in November 2003.
Two of Campbell’s biggest donors ended up with all of BC Rail’s rail services in a deal that was part of BC’s biggest scandal -- a scandal that continues today.
And now one of them is chairing the NPA campaign.
It looks like the Campbell operatives have found a place to land as Christy Clark takes over the BC Liberals.
In today’s NPA, the Campbell legacy carries on.