Debate demonstrates how B.C. political leaders' words don't always match reality

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      Last night's televised provincial leaders debate provided great theatre for political junkies.

      But I'm guessing that many British Columbians tuned out long before the broadcast ended.

      That's because it's hard to take the political parties' marketing messages that seriously.

      NDP Leader Adrian Dix drove that point home when he accused B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark of "running a fact-free campaign".

      That's because Clark promises more jobs and a debt-free B.C.—as she has presided over a significant increase in debt and a drop in employment since she launched the B.C. Jobs Plan.

      Meanwhile, Green Leader Jane Sterk reinforced the shallowness of the NDP campaign by noting that things might be "marginally better" if Dix's party wins the election.

      Under an NDP government, welfare recipients will receive a $20 per month raise, which will hardly put a dent in child poverty. People on income assistance will also receive annual cost-of-living increases if Dix becomes premier. Whoop-de-do.

      Because the Greens and B.C. Conservatives aren't likely to form government, their platforms haven't been subjected to the same level of scrutiny. 

      Sterk and B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins like to act like they have more integrity than the others, but their policies can also be picked apart.

      The Green Book declares that the party has a key goal of getting the province off oil and gas.

      The B.C. Greens also promise to conserve more forests, withhold tenure agreements for unconventional oil and gas developments until "all environmental liabilities and health concerns are addressed", and maintain a key goal of establishing a moratorium on new gas exploration and drilling.

      Keep in mind that the B.C. government is expected to pull in about $900 million in resource revenues from forestry and the oil and gas industries.

      Even though the Greens would likely drive down those resource revenues, they want to expand Medical Services Plan coverage to "include preventative treatments such as chiropractic, physiotherapy, eye exams, and massage therapy".

      But there is no budget plan in the Green Book for voters to evaluate. Maybe because the numbers don't add up.

      Meanwhile, the B.C. Conservatives plan to phase out the carbon tax over four years. It will bring in more than $1.2 billion to the treasury this year.

      Cummins has claimed that "new revenues" will offset this massive revenue shortfall. But he bases them on impossible-to-achieve economic-growth projections in an era marked by sustained high oil prices.

      It's hard not to feel that all four provincial leaders are insulting voters' intelligence.

      But hey, last night's debate revealed that they all look pretty good when they dress up to go on TV.

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      9 Comments

      ursa minor

      Apr 30, 2013 at 9:10am

      I'll take "marginally better" under the NDP over the Liberals' aping the Roger Douglas/Ralph Klein strategy of "hit 'em hard, hit 'em fast and don't blink" when they took power in 2001.

      Keri-Lynn

      Apr 30, 2013 at 9:29am

      If this is the best BC has to offer we are really for a lack of a better work screwed.

      PJ

      Apr 30, 2013 at 10:20am

      The greens put us in the poor house,Libs. and NDP,dont know how to balance income to output.promise more with the same taxes ? Dose that mean tax increase?.How else are they going to give away more money.I might try Conservativs as the carbon tax costs more then it brings in,besides we pay it anyway so that alone will save the tax payer money.We tried both other partys and they failed,do we want another rerun? of the same old same old.

      JamieLee

      Apr 30, 2013 at 11:05am

      The problem is voters always vote against a Party rather the voting for a Party. So Jane Sterk is correct. There won't be much difference if the NDP assumes power. Mr Dix's plan will be to ensure his re-election if elected rather than implementing the NDP program and policies.

      Bikerck

      Apr 30, 2013 at 11:33am

      $20 is $20. With judicious spending that's a week of groceries. I know. I stretched $5 into a week of potatoes and lentils once upon a leaner time. It's a couple new pairs of socks or underwear a month for your kid. I realize for most of us it may represent lunch and our morning coffee and muffin, but to suggest even a measly $20 won't have a positive impact for some people is to fail to understand the realities of living in poverty.

      A. MacInnis

      Apr 30, 2013 at 1:47pm

      Ms. Clark had an interesting strategy last night: whenever faced with a question she could not or did not want to answer (marijuana reform, for instance), she deflected it and returned to a blank-eyed variant of her catchphrase, "grow the economy, not the government." Presumably this means selling off public resources to her friends and cronies, dismantling what few social services remain, continuing to attack education, and making sure only rich businessmen flourish in the province, since really, only the wealthy count... the rest of us can live on what trickles down. I'm not much impressed with Adrian Dix, to be honest, but I'm sick of Clark, and find her policies loathsome. All for "change for the better" here...

      Rick in Richmond

      Apr 30, 2013 at 3:29pm

      The importance of last night's "debate" is its demonstration that minority parties matter.

      Ms Clark veers right in order to withstand any drainage of votes to the Conservatives. Mr Dix veers green in order to do the same on the left. The two major parties are always concerned about being out-flanked. And they should be.

      If the Liberals fail badly, watch for the rise of a BC Party. It will be akin to the Wildrose Party in Alberta, and the governing Saskatchewan Party in that province. The latter began as a coalition of the disaffected in 1997, and today they are in charge.

      Since the fall of Boss Johnson, this province has been governed by populist parties on the right and left. Our longest-lasting Premier, WAC Bennett, stayed in office for 20 years. He did so by campaigning right, but governing left. He stole CCF/NDP policies (BC Med, BC Hydro, BC Ferries) and made them his own.

      Dave Barrett campaigned left, but in many ways governed right: the ALR was a profoundly conservative approach to land use, as was the Islands Trust. Both have been tremendously successful. So too has been ICBC, which keeps private auto insurance affordable, and keeps a $billion float reinvested in our own small businesses.

      Last night showed that Mr Dix has the stronger grasp of long-term political reality in this province.

      If he learns to do what WAC Bennett managed to do, and Dave Barrett tried to do, he will be in office a long time.

      Pitooie Politics

      Apr 30, 2013 at 7:50pm

      It's been a long time coming....the Liberal party should've been incinerated and relegated into the history books a year or two ago. But this NDP...boy I get this queasy feeling with Dix not unlike that felt just before Gordon Campbell came to power. They're just in it for power if you've watched their spending patterns recently - ridiculous. And these leaders really have a gift of eluding and vaguely answering any question we the people need to hear.

      jay heakes

      May 8, 2013 at 9:50pm

      I did not Like this comment and was debating whether to vote for NDP but now will not because I abhore underhanded play.