10/04/2011 05:22 EDT | Updated 12/04/2011 05:12 EST

Gordon Campbell Fails To Show Up To Accept Order Of B.C. Award

VICTORIA - Former premier Gordon Campbell was a no-show at his Order-of-B.C. induction ceremony Tuesday, prompting the lieutenant governor to say his old friend deserves the award even though the nomination sparked controversy.

Premier Christy Clark, who said she was humbled to be in the presence of more than a dozen high-achieving British Columbians, did not mention the former premier during the ceremony.

Campbell was among 14 people who received the Order of B.C., which recognizes the excellence and achievements of individual British Columbians.

"I'm particularly sorry my friend Gordon Campbell could not be here," said Lt.-Gov. Steven Point as he addressed the 13 inductees at Government House. "It's my belief he is entirely deserving of this recognition."

Campbell's critics launched an Internet campaign to rescind his nomination, saying he was the architect of the hated harmonized sales tax, which was dumped after a provincewide referendum in August.

Others, including Opposition New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix, said Campbell deserved the honour but that his nomination was too soon after his political career, which officially ended in March with his resignation from his seat in a Vancouver riding.

The Campbell nomination saw B.C.'s top judge weigh in on the debate and issue a statement that said the nomination did not violate the rules and time guidelines of an act that governs Order of B.C. nominations and appointments.

Chief Justice Lance Finch is chairman of the independent Order of B.C. Advisory Council, which selects Order of B.C. recipients.

Campbell announced last November that he was stepping down as Liberal leader and premier, virtually admitting he and the Liberals could not shake the public outcry over the HST.

Clark was elected Liberal leader and premier after a leadership campaign last February.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Campbell as Canada's High Commissioner in London. The former premier could not be reached for comment at his office.

Recipients at the Order of B.C. ceremony in Victoria included Vancouver politician and businessman David Emerson, North Vancouver rescue leader Tim Jones, Vancouver hockey broadcaster Jim Robson and Victoria child safety advocate Crystal Dunahee.

"Each of you decided to accept the great call of public service," Clark said during the ceremony. "You all decided to step up and make a difference. I'm honoured to be in your presence today."

Outside the ceremony, Clark called the experience humbling and highlighted the accomplishments of Dunahee, who has worked as a child safety advocate despite the disappearance of her son Michael in 1991, when he was four years old.

"Think of what Crystal Dunahee has done in her life," Clark said. "Like Betty Fox, she took a terrible tragedy, the loss of a child, and turned it into incredible work ... that benefited children and families across the country."