Dermod Travis: Five New Year’s resolutions for B.C. politicians
It's that time of year when many of us make resolutions for the new year. Most of them are lofty goals towards self-improvement: quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more often are all among the popular ones.
So in the spirit of the season, here are five ideas for B.C. politicians to consider as they set their resolutions for 2014.
1. Stop trying to defy gravity.
Voters aren't dummies. They can add, subtract, and remember what you said yesterday, the year before, and in the last election.
Families First? Check. Cleanest liquified natural gas in the world? Check. B.C. Ferries is an independent corporation free of government interference? Check.
2. Avoid most words that end in "est".
Politicians like to boast, but there are some words that should be banned from your lexicon in 2014. These include: best, biggest, cleanest, largest; and you can throw in world class as well.
No politician would ever say they're going to come up with the second best solution or use inferior technology, but leave it up to others to determine if it's the best, biggest, cleanest, or world class.
3. Don't make job creation promises you can't cash.
No one likes it when a politician breaks a promise, but there's a big difference when it comes to breaking one on creating jobs.
The unemployed aren't just the numbers British Columbians see in monthly Statistics Canada reports, they're also the faces of those relying upon their partner, father, or mother to find a job.
And it hurts even more when the unemployed see many of the new jobs going to temporary foreign workers. With more than 5,300 B.C. businesses holding temporary foreign worker permits, there's the potential for a lot of hurt.
Decent jobs mean a great deal to those who need them. Don't let them down.
4. Don't hold public consultations that are only intended to seek validation for a course already decided upon or keep holding them until you get the answer you want.
From service cuts at B.C. Ferries to bike lanes in Kitsilano, there's a perception that sometimes local councils and the provincial government may hold public consultations just to provide political cover for a decision already taken.
Bad idea. It feeds public cynicism.
Public consultations will have more street cred when you approach them with an open mind regarding the outcome rather than simply extending a rubber stamp in the hope the public will take it and acquiesce to a course of action you've already decided upon.
5. Stop auditioning for The Brick.
B.C. may have the lowest personal tax rate in Canada, but that doesn't mean it has the lowest tax burden and taxpayers know it. Don't insult their intelligence by suggesting they're getting off easy when it comes to taxes and fees.
While it may be politically expedient to reduce a 28 percent hydro rate hike over five years into “only $5 a month more in the first year”, don't.
A $5 per month hike may not seem much, but it's on top of similar “only a few dollars a month more” increases for ICBC premiums, B.C. Ferries fares, and MSP premiums. And that's at the provincial level.
Locally, ratepayers face “only a few dollars a month more” increases in property taxes, sewer and water utility fees, garbage fees, Capital Regional District and Metro Vancouver taxes, and transit subsidies (including fares, transit dedicated property taxes, and fuel taxes).
And all of these “a few dollars here and a few dollars there” increases come out of some of the lowest median family incomes in Canada and from family budgets that pay some of Canada's highest housing costs.
A few other fiscal stats to keep in mind when you're trying to reduce hydro rate hikes to the ridiculous: B.C. university students are graduating with the highest student debt load in Canada; the average consumer is carrying non-mortgage debt in excess of $25,000; and more than 40 percent of British Columbians live paycheque to paycheque.
There's little left in the pockets of British Columbians to pick except lint, so stop explaining away rate hikes in terms better suited to furniture retailers.
Keeping these five resolutions will play well with British Columbians.
Happy New Year.