Does anyone believe Finance Minister Colin Hansen anymore?

Finance Minister Colin Hansen's credibility already came into question this summer when he declared that he only started thinking about introducing a harmonized sales tax after the May 12 provincial election.

He claimed it would be revenue-neutral, which elicited guffaws from the NDP. The Opposition finance critic, Bruce Ralston, trotted out a C.D. Howe Institute paper purporting that the HST would bring in an extra  $4 billion to the treasury over a three-year period.

Now with the latest budget numbers, Hansen has diluted his credibility even further.

Last February, Hansen introduced a budget forecasting a $495-million deficit this year, and a $245-million deficit in the following year.

It was based, in part, on the following forecasts:

* a $343-million increase in personal-income tax revenue
* an $89-million increase in sales-tax revenue
* a $95-million increase in B.C. Hydro revenue

This week, Hansen told reporters that the revenue numbers are short by $2.2 billion.

Corporate-income taxes  and personal-income taxes are expected to  be down by a billion dollars from the forecast in the February budget, which was introduced during the deepest recession in a generation.

The same is true of natural-gas revenues--another billion dollars short. And sales-tax revenues are off by about $200 million.

Chalk up  another $400 million in additional B.C. government  expenses, which adds up to $2.6 billion. Toss in the forecasted deficit, and we're over a  $3-billion shortfall, if Hansen can be believed.

He'll bring in a budget next month that will deal with this new reality.

But how real  are these  new numbers?

Former finance minister Paul Martin was famous for overestimating expenditures and underestimating revenues, so he could look like some sort of miracle worker by the end of each fiscal year.

In the meantime, the poor always  got hammered, losing housing programs, national welfare standards, and transfer payments to provinces that would have subsidized health care and education.

If Hansen has underestimated revenues from the HST, there's a chance that poor people in B.C. will get hammered unnecessarily.

These days, Hansen's credibility is in such a sorry state that the public might rightly ask, "Why should we believe  his new numbers when  his old numbers turned out to be such malarkey?"

With the fudge-it budget and the HST brouhaha, too many British Columbians no longer believe anything  he says.

And pretty soon, people working at the bond-rating agencies might also stop believing what comes out of his mouth, either, which is why the premier should start thinking about finding someone to replace him.

Comments

5 Comments

Arnold

Aug 21, 2009 at 10:10am

Total Recall

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Evil Eye

Aug 21, 2009 at 3:15pm

As the man with quick wit and repartee said, "F****** liars, the lot of them!"

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Howlin

Aug 21, 2009 at 6:07pm

Can you say blind panic? I've never seen anything like the financial mismanagement that this government has repeatedly demonstrated. And how do they try to cover their messy deeds? By imposing the same worst-practices on others. They're doing this by withholding funds that have already been allocated including money from this province's lotteries and casinos. They are hammering libraries, the arts and social programs in the vain hope they can divert more of that money into the financial black hole that they themselves created. This leaves these organizations who already work miracles with minuscule amounts trying to hold up the foundations of this province's civil society. The Liberals will say it's the economy. I say it's ineptitude. But don't worry, a small minority of people and corporations profited handsomely during the Liberal's first two terms. I'm sure this third term will be no different.

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TMoon

Aug 21, 2009 at 10:40pm

This is such a silly title! I'm more interested in knowing what all the idiots who believed him in the first place are thinking now.

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apeasant

Aug 22, 2009 at 11:06am

Brilliant TMoon. Our governance system brings forth these endless scandals. Only the system and the media benefit. No one will remember this scandal 6 months from now. At some point one would think the public would turn off the TV and take notice.

A Nixon speech writer said it best in 1968:
Voters are basically lazy, basically uninterested in making any effort to understand what we are talking about "..."reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making any intellectual demand."

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