That ’70s political show, again

The decade that won't go away in our political debate.

The decade that won't go away in our political debate.

VICTORIA – As the federal parliament slid once again into partisan mayhem, former finance minister John Manley was on CBC television, making me wish he would bring his voice of reason back to Ottawa.

Liberal and NDP supporters had been taking turns with accusations that the Conservatives’ corporate tax cuts only help the rich.

“That’s stuff that we used to hear in the ’70s,” Manley said. “I thought that people had grown away from that.”

He then patiently explained that the key holdings most in peoples’ retirement plans are bank, petroleum and other blue-chip stocks. His Liberal government’s strategy of competing for business investment in a global economy has wisely been continued under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Yet much of our political discourse at all levels of government still imagines class warfare between tycoons in silk top hats and a ragged, powerless peasantry.

For B.C. voters, 2011 is shaping up as the most politically empowered year ever. The May 2 federal election now gets in line with a by-election for Premier Christy Clark, a referendum on the harmonized sales tax, municipal elections in November and potentially, an early provincial election as well.

Will all these contests raise the level of debate? So far it doesn’t look good.

This fourth federal election in seven years could have had one benefit. But Clark did not see fit to abandon the hare-brained scheme to rush through the HST referendum in June, and now the B.C. government risks losing the tax argument amid all the noise.

If the HST vote had been left to September, more people might come to appreciate that taxes on business investment and income are going out of style. An Angus Reid poll came out last week finding that one third of B.C. residents would now vote to keep the HST, compared to 54 per cent who would take B.C. back to the 1970s.

Another contest being overshadowed is the B.C. NDP leadership, and that’s a ’70s show as well. Raising the minimum wage to $10.25 isn’t good enough. Candidate Nicholas Simons tried to raise his profile by suggesting that it should be hiked 50 per cent, to $12.

Heck, why not raise it to $20? If you’re stuck in the ’70s and can’t comprehend the downside of state-imposed prosperity, why not just make poverty history?

Federal NDP leader Jack Layton informed an anxious nation that he wouldn’t support the Conservative budget because it doesn’t “lift all seniors out of poverty” or “create” enough doctors so everyone can have one.

Cuba has “created” plenty of doctors. Mind you, they get paid $25 a month in addition to their food ration cards, so perhaps that socialist Utopia should raise its minimum wage.

I watched another ’70s show last week, attending the B.C. Teachers’ Federation convention at the Victoria Conference Centre.

Before Education Minister George Abbott arrived, delegates passed a typically self-righteous resolution demanding all levels of government immediately get rid of poverty. How? Create poverty reduction plans with measurable goals.

Right, kind of like those five-year plans for tractor production the Soviet Union had back in the ’70s.

Once Abbott arrived to hold out the olive branch, the BCTF’s usual demands resumed. More teachers, more support staff and raises of 10 per cent or more.

Does anyone on the BCTF executive know how to synthesize information? Can’t they see a connection between the big raises and staff increases they demand and what’s available for other programs?

There’s a clue to our stagnant political debate. It’s largely formed in public schools.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The District of Sooke has launched a new online community engagement platform, letstalksooke.ca, where residents can share feedback and stay up to date on projects and initiatives that are happening in their community. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke launches online engagement portal

The District of Sooke has launched a new online community engagement platform… Continue reading

Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak in two houses at the Mount St. Mary long-term care home on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)
Island Health declares outbreak at Victoria long-term care home

Resident, staff member test positive for COVID-19 at Mount St. Mary facility

A peacock struts by a pair of lamb siblings at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, which remains closed to the public. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
VIDEO: Victoria petting zoo optimistic about future after 13 months closed

Public helps non-profit Beacon Hill Children’s Farm with nearly $100,000 influx

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus is putting a 41-passenger electric bus through its paces in a three-month trial run between Nanaimo and Victoria. (Photo submitted)
Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus trying out 41-seat electric coach for three months

Sewer construction will mean limited access to West Shore Parkway from Sooke Road for the next week. (Courtesy of the City of Langford)
West Shore Parkway access limited from Sooke Road

Crews working on sewer construction for the next week

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
An Island girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Most Read