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August 25, 2009

Apology Missing from Throne Speech

It was probably too much to hope that Premier Campbell would use today's Speech from the Throne to apologize for misleading British Columbians before and during the election. The Throne Speech described the HST decision as "difficult and rapid". Those who believe that might also believe that the government had no idea about the state of B.C.'s economy and government finances before the election when Campbell promised a deficit no bigger than $495 million and surpluses by 2011-2012. The post-election Throne Speech said:

"We have been hit by seismic economic shifts that were unpredictable and brutally deceiving in their speed and force. They rocked our province, hurt our industries and have left thousands of workers worried or unemployed."
"Government revenues have been decimated. Billions of dollars have been lost to falling commodity prices, smaller incomes, shrinking exports and lower sales."

Hansard for November 26, 2008 recorded that Colin Hansen, Minister of Finance said: "We can deliver the programs that British Columbians count on, and we can do it without putting this province into deficit, because of the careful management of the budget." That was before the election. Now the government admits to what economists were saying then and wants the public to believe it just got the bad news.

On the one hand the Campbell government clings to its claims about B.C. leading Canada, while on the other hand it advocates implementing the HST as the Maritimes have done in order to achieve growth. Is his government suggesting we look to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador as models of economic success? Campbell's government has consistently shifted the tax burden to low and middle income British Columbians, starting with the 50% hike in MSP premiums and continuing through the regressive HST shock.

In its February 2009 Throne Speech, the position of the government was: "We had hoped to be in a position to introduce a voluntary all-day kindergarten program for five-year-olds this September. Regrettably, three factors will delay its introduction. Current economic circumstances, the need to develop appropriate space and the time to recruit qualified educators means it is not feasible in 2009." Just six months later, despite being hit by "seismic economic shifts" that require the government to again amend its balanced budget law so as to allow four years of deficits, the August Throne Speech promised all-day kindergarten by September 2010. Despite higher betting limits at BCLC, don't bet on that promise.

The Throne Speech also said: "Neighbourhood learning centres will become the focus of intensive activities with city councils, library boards, recreation commissions, parents and professionals. Government will work to establish educational and preschool opportunities in the midst of the neighbourhoods where our families live." Aren't those called schools, or did Campbell read another book and go off on a tangent over the summer? Does the exclusion of school boards from that list signal anything?

W.A.C. Bennett is alleged to have said that politicians should never wear out a good promise by keeping it. In that spirit, the Throne Speech again promised a transmission line alone Highway 37. The only energy project promised more often than that is the elimination of Burrard Thermal, also mentioned again in the Throne Speech, possibly as a message to the BC Utilities Commission. Not mentioned was what the cost would be of either project. Eliminating Burrard would require significant transmission upgrades to serve the Lower Mainland. In June 2008 building the Highway 37 Transmission line was estimated to cost $400 million, but government was only willing to fund $250 million. Maybe the project will get underway now that the government is in financial meltdown.

With the record the Campbell government has established in the truth department, no one should take anything it says seriously until proof is offered. Recycled news releases don't make it as a contribution to the environment.

 
 

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