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December 15, 2009

Government's Revised Website

Your tax dollars are working even harder to create spin for the BC Liberals. Most folks don't regularly check on the government's website, but those who do will notice that it has been updated with the elimination of more than a dozen graphic links in the right column, replaced by only three graphic links and three lists of linked text. It would be a waste of time and resources to try and discover how much the provincial government spent on revising the appearance of its website. Relative to the contrast between the bottomless pit of money for the "games" compared to cuts to services, a few hundred thousand or so for a website revision would be a drop in the bucket.

What hasn't changed on the government site is that spin continues to dominate fact. Click on "for the record", then on "children" and you'll see unbelievable claims that:

  • Child Poverty is decreasing in British Columbia.
  • The child poverty level (LICO after tax) is now at its lowest level since 1991
  • The child poverty rate in B.C. fell 32 per cent between 2003 and 2007.
  • Between 2006 and 2007 the child poverty rate fell 21 per cent.
  • The poverty level for all age groups is at its lowest level in nearly two decades.
  • Poverty across all age groups in B.C. has fallen by 21 per cent between 2001 and 2007.
  • Between 2006 and 2007 the rate for all age groups fell 15 per cent.

Compare those claims to what is reported by the BC Progress Board:

"In 2007, BC ranked second-last in Canada with 15.3 percent of families and unattached individuals with incomes below the after-tax low income cut-off (LICO)."

The Progress Board's site includes a graph (reproduced here) BC Progress Board Low Income Prevalencewhich shows that between 1999 and 2006 low income prevalence decreased for both BC and Canada, but the accompanying explanation of the graph said:

"All provinces saw decreases in the proportion of people with low income between 1998 and 2007. British Columbia had the third-smallest decrease at 25 percent and Alberta had the largest decrease at 51 percent."

"BC's rate fell by eight percent between 2006 and 2007. This did not result in a rank improvement, however, because most other provinces had even larger decreases. Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Saskatchewan had decreases in low income rates twice as large as BC's." (emphasis added)

In other words, the government's website spins misleading statistics which are not supported by the Premier's hand-picked Progress Board. Neither are the BC Liberal government's claims supported by the "2009 Child Poverty Report Card", published by First Call BC, which reported:

"British Columbia had the highest child poverty rate in Canada for the sixth year in a row in 2007." The Report went on to say: "BC's child poverty rates have been above the national average since 1999 and the highest of any province for six years in a row. The BC child poverty rate in 2007 was 18.8%, higher than the rate of 14.5% in 1989 and sharply higher than the rate of 11% in 1980."

The accompanying graph (reproduced here) Campaign 2000 Child Poverty Ratesshows the child poverty rate for BC and Canada fluctuating around the same values between 1980 and 2000, after which a 3 point gap is created to the disadvantage of BC children - contrary to claims on the government's website.

Another example of misleading claims and the selective use of statistics is found when you click on "Your B.C. Government: Key Facts" where you will see a graphic which reports that between 2001 and 2009 there were "over 363,000 jobs created". Not reported is that is about the same number of jobs that would have been created if the employment growth rate of the previous decade had continued.

Employment grew from an annual average of 1.58 million in 1991 to 1.92 million in 2001, an average annual rate of increase of 2.0%. Continued at that rate, annual employment would have been 2.25 million in 2009; actual employment reported by Statistics Canada for BC in November 2009 was 2.26 million.

British Columbians have learned the hard way after the last election that the B.C. Liberals suffer an enormous credibility gap. Whether it is their claims about the HST, promises about the deficit, commitments to protect health and education or simply statistical facts about child poverty and employment, you have to check the facts for yourself because you can't believe what the government tells you, updated website or not.


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