Gabriel Yiu: Christy Clark takes liberties with the budget numbers
Prior to the 2009 election, the B.C. Liberal government released its budget, which projected a deficit of $495 million.
The size of the deficit was highly questioned during the election campaign period, but Gordon Campbell, the Liberal premier at the time, insisted that it would not exceed $495 million.
Nevertheless, shortly after the election, the B.C. Liberals admitted that the deficit would be six times that amount. They promptly brought in the harmonized sales tax so that they could claim the $1.6-billion bonus from the federal government. This was even though they had promised during the election campaign that they were not considering the HST.
Fastforward to now, 2013, and weeks before the election, the B.C. Liberals are playing the same trick again: they tabled a so-called “balanced budget".
This is what Premier Christy Clark said on Fairchild Radio on February 21, 2013:
Every year, every year for 12 years, the government has met its target except for one, and that was during the global economic meltdown when not a single government anywhere in the world met its targets or balanced its budget. Now, this year, we’re not in that economic climate. It’s tough, but we are doing OK. We brought in the former chief economist of the Bank of Montreal to double-check all the numbers and give his independent seal of approval to the budget completely independent of the government. He came in, he looked at the numbers, and he said that this budget is genuinely balanced. So don’t believe what I say; believe what the independent third party from the bank said.
It’s very unfortunate that the B.C. Liberals have not learned from their mistake in 2009. Rather than being truthful to the public, they continue their deceptive tricks.
Do you really believe that the B.C. Liberal government met all the budget targets in the past 12 years except once? Did Christy Clark think that her Chinese radio listeners are all credulous kids? I also wonder: would she give the same comment to a mainstream media outlet?
The fact is, since the last election, the B.C. Liberals have run deficits seven years out of 12, including four years straight, with deficits totalling more than $5 billion.
Under the B.C. Liberals, this province has received the federal transfer payment to a have-not-province five times, whereas the NDP government in the 1990s received the transfer only once.
Since the 2009 election, all the B.C. Liberal budgets were in deficit.
Let’s take a look at last year’s budget. When it was released in February, the government projected a deficit of $968 million, but it was recently updated a deficit of $1.23 billion.
Clark said the former Bank of Montreal chief economist said “the budget is genuinely balanced.” Oh my goodness! How our premier could distort facts like that!
The fact is that this government hired the economist to review only the projected revenue. He has not looked into the expenditure side of the budget. Then how could the premier declare that the economist had certified this budget as “balanced”?
There are many problems in the Liberal budget. For example, they put some of the 2013/14 expenditures into the 2012/13 year account. This would indeed reduce the budget and help “balance” the budget of the coming year. However, I have to warn people in business that they shouldn’t apply such a trick in filing their tax return, or they’d be in trouble.
The fact is that the B.C. auditor general has released a report that condemned the management of B.C. Hydro for deferring expenditures to the future so that the Crown utility could transfer half a billion dollars of “surplus” to the provincial treasury. The auditor general made it clear that there is no surplus.
In order to balance the budget, the B.C. Liberals also said they would sell off large quantities of public land and assets. In fact, the same time last year, the B.C. Liberals played the same trick—selling public assets to raise revenue.
But one year later, those assets earmarked for sale are still government-owned. Now, we hear the same tune again, only this time the target has been raised to $800 million.
The fundamental question is this: if a family has to rely on the selling of its garage or kitchen table in order to pay for its daily expenses, what kind of a household budget is that? Is it really balanced?
Tommy Douglas, the greatest Canadian, once said: “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me!”
No wonder people are not buying the B.C. Liberals’ so-called “balanced budget”. That’s because it is not a balanced budget. Worse, they wasted millions of taxpayers' money trying to convince us that the budget is balanced.
Gabriel Yiu is a small business owner, award-winning commentator, and B.C. NDP candidate for Vancouver-Fraserview.