The Legislative session is only three weeks old and the BC Liberals continue to disappoint as they stumble from one policy disaster to another. It all kicked off with Christy Clark heading to familiar territory at radio station CKNW instead of the traditional throne speech to open the spring session. The Premier opted to lay out her government’s agenda on talk radio, leaving people to wonder why she left radio in the first place.
Four scathing reports by independent watchdogs in February highlighted the damage Liberal policy has had on the fabric of our economy and our social programs. First up was a report on the health of our forests by the Auditor General. After a decade of underfunding and confused leadership, the Auditor reported that we don’t really know the true condition of our land base. For a resource based economy with a 100 year history of forest management, we are no longer able to accurately predict what is going on in the woods today.
Three years ago, after numerous complaints from seniors and their families, the Ombudsperson announced her office would do a review of the state of seniors care. Three volumes, hundreds of pages and 176 recommendations later, the Ombudsperson report highlighted the sorry condition of home care, continuing care and the challenges seniors face in British Columbia.
Last summer Christy Clark promised to keep Hydro rate increases low. An internal assessment claimed that firing 1,000 people would be enough to keep the predicted rate increases below four per cent. Liberal energy policy has largely made the BC Utilities Commission irrelevant, but they still have the authority to review how Hydro spending will be paid for – how much ratepayers will cough up to meet future costs. After looking at the growth of deferral accounts, an accounting sleight of hand designed to push today’s costs into the future, the BCUC concluded that a seven per cent increase this year and next would begin to reduce the off-book debt the Liberals have forced on BC Hydro.
Next up, a tragic report on the deaths of three children at the hands of their father in Merritt three years ago. The independent Children’s Representative reviewed the case and found numerous failings in our child protection and legal system. The Liberals predictably promised to implement all of the recommendations so that this horror would never happen again. Only one problem. The bulk of the recommendations mirror those in a similar report done by the representative in 2008 following another case of family violence. Government committed to follow those recommendations as well, but did not.
Then there was the budget. Clark promised no tax increases, but she raised MSP premiums, the Carbon tax and ICBC rates to match those at BC Hydro. More money from working families is a tax increase to most people, but not, it seems, to BC Liberals. They also broke a promise to small business operators to lower the small business tax. Maybe next year. Promise.
Of the many clangers in the budget, the strangest is the commitment to sell some of our public assets to fill the deficit hole. The BC Liberals have decided to sell off $700-million in tax-payer owned assets to generate a balanced budget next year – selling out our future for the sake of their immediate political needs. We should sell what we don’t need if it makes sense to do so, but the Liberals can’t even tell us what they plan to sell, only that they hope to raise just enough to balance next year. Promise.
A note on the back to work legislation…
At the end of February, the BC Liberals introduced back to work legislation to put an end to teachers’ job action.
Teachers, parents and students are facing continued tensions as Liberals impose a one sided solution to a problem largely of their own making. In 2002 the BC Liberals stripped teacher contacts of gains regarding class size and composition. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that the BC Liberals had violated the law to do so and gave the government a year to respond.
The past decade has been a difficult one for our education system. A responsible government would negotiate fairly with teachers and work toward improving outcomes for our children. Instead, we have the spectacle of a Premier in attack mode, looking to divide people rather than bring them together. I will be voting against the legislation and speaking against the Liberal approach.
John Horgan, MLA Juan de Fuca