The good news is it doesn’t really matter now which party you vote for in the next B.C. election, which may arrive sooner than you think. They all want to spend billions more of your money, so really, the pressure’s off.
After presenting a throne speech with a couple of dozen big spending items lifted from the NDP platform, Premier Christy Clark was as upbeat as ever. She’s keen to have her government hang on long enough to present the public accounts, the audited financial statements for the fiscal year that ended this spring.
Economic growth was “a full point” higher than private sector forecasts used by the finance ministry, Clark disclosed at a news conference in the legislature rose garden. This revenue windfall is mostly from urban incomes, sales taxes and Bill Vander Zalm’s gift that won’t stop giving, the property transfer tax, now with theforeign buyer luxury tax on top.
Clark assured us the audited books will show there’s a “structural surplus,” the opposite of the dreaded structural deficit. And it’s enough for a $1-billion expansion of subsidized child care, more hip and knee surgeries, and rail transit, not just to Maple Ridge and Langley but Victoria and even Squamish. And no more of those awful road tolls that the B.C. Liberals insisted all through the election campaign were vital to maintaining our AAA credit rating.
During that campaign the B.C. Liberals warned Interior and Island folks that the NDP is going to make them help pay off the Port Mann bridge and highway expansion, subsidizing the prosperous southwest while rural B.C. communitiesstruggle for resource jobs. They’d list the big projects that were built without tolls, a new Kelowna bridge and so on. They didn’t mention the Coquihalla, but those of us who paid that $10 toll for 20 years haven’t forgotten.
NDP leader John Horgan sounds like the fiscally prudent one these days. A $10 daycare spot for every tot will take a decade to build and staff. Welfare ratescan be increased by only $100 a month, such a modest sum that even the B.C. Liberals now approve.
Much has been said in this space about the B.C. Greens’ proposed spending spree. While Horgan talks about the challenge in his home school district to find 300 more teachers for this fall, Green leader Andrew Weaver continues to boast he’s found $4 billion more for education.
Of course he’s got to collapse the two biggest construction projects in Western Canada first, assuming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t send in soldiers, sorry, peacekeepers, to facilitate construction of his chosen oil pipeline.
Weaver rushed up to validate Site C dam protesters again last week, touring the site and declaring a sweat lodge and “burial site” to be new revelations in this clean energy project. Concerned about rising costs, he picked an inflated number out of the air to calculate future power costs, while angling for new delays that would help produce cost overruns.
Weaver wants to shut down, pay out and remediate Site C, laying off 2,000 people and flushing at least $3 billion with nothing to show for it.
BC Hydro provided me with a summary of alterations for the suddenly discovered burial site (no actual evidence so far) and the suddenly built sweat lodge (road moved to accommodate it).
The protest organizer, West Moberly Chief Roland Willson, doesn’t even have the strongest aboriginal title claim there. That would be the Doig River First Nation, which has gas pipeline and Crown forest agreements with B.C.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @tomfletcherbc