Bruce Ralston: British Columbians pay for Liberals' budget deception

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      By Bruce Ralston

      The B.C. Liberals capped off their summer of deception with a budget that breaks the fundamental commitments they made to British Columbians while piling extra costs onto British Columbians.

      This week, the premier, Gordon Campbell, and his finance minister, Colin Hansen, came under fire and further damaged their credibility after British Columbians learned that they knew about the province’s ballooning deficit during the election period but hid the news from voters.

      Despite clear warnings from leading economists that their pre-election numbers didn’t hold water, the government refused to admit that they were going to break the premier’s promises until after the election. And they attempted to label anyone who questioned the believability of their promises a fear monger.

      When no one believed the government’s initial budget projections in February, the B.C. Liberals stood by a fictitious projection of $495 million and held this position throughout the election campaign. It would seem that, in telling the truth, they would have jeopardized their election brand—to sell British Columbians on their ability to manage the economy.

      After the election, the premier and Minister Hansen continued on their duplicitous path, swearing they had no idea that B.C.’s deficit would be off. That was until a radio interview this week, when Hansen let it slip that during the election, his deputy finance minister casually mentioned that the deficit might run $200 million to $300 million more than originally forecast.

      In a separate but strikingly similar admission, the premier said he had a similar conversation during the campaign with his deputy minister.

      With their budget lies, the B.C. Liberals have undermined a lot more than their own legitimacy. They have undermined the public’s faith in the institutions that govern us all.

      Carole James and the New Democrats have put forward positive steps to help return openness to government budgeting, modelled on the prime minister’s accountability package, and have called for an independent budget officer.

      But the finance minister dismissed the model of a budget officer out of hand. Despite the fact that it’s a model supported by leading economists across the country, the B.C. Liberals refuse to consider any concrete measure to restore accountability to revenue forecasts. It proves the government’s complete lack of commitment to accountability and openness in budgeting.

      Despite the fact that this is the second time this year the finance minister has had the chance to put forward a plan for British Columbians, he has yet to offer any real plan. The introduction of a new regressive tax onto the backs of consumers and hikes to Medical Services Plan premiums combined with deep cuts to public services shows how far this government has drifted from economic and fiscal reality.

      The legacy of eight years of B.C. Liberal economic and fiscal mismanagement is a province deeply divided between rich and poor, rural and urban, young and old; a province where the potential benefits of economic growth were squandered, leaving British Columbians ill-prepared to cope with the inevitable downturn that has come.

      The B.C. Liberal budget does nothing to change direction. Tied to failed economic and fiscal orthodoxies, the government is proving to be incapable of new thinking.

      The choice made in this budget—the 10th of this administration—offers yesterday’s solutions to today’s challenges. It sacrifices consumers, small business, and investments in economic growth to cover up for its fiscal lies. It is a budget as flawed as the government who delivered it.

      In the wake of B.C. Liberal mismanagement and misinformation, the key will be to help British Columbians navigate within a damaged economy that struggles to emerge from the recession, and prevent the next generation from being saddled with a massive deficit.

      Bruce Ralston is the B.C. New Democratic Party’s finance critic and the MLA for Surrey-Whalley.

      Comments

      6 Comments

      NDP Schizophrenia

      Sep 3, 2009 at 4:19pm

      Amazing how someone can in the same article slam a government for introducing new taxes, cutting services, AND running a deficit. There's only so much to go around and something has to give, so pick one.

      This is why the NDP didn't win the last election: the only solutions they ever present involve digger ourselves even deeper into debt than Campbell is right now. They do their best to dance around admitting that obvious truth, as Mr. Ralston here did on the Bill Good show the other day, but truth it remains.

      You can't grow an economy with empty rhetoric, or with handouts funded on the backs of people that still have jobs.

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      seth

      Sep 3, 2009 at 9:55pm

      To little too late Ralston.

      I suspect it was Carole James who told you to back off from going after Gordo on economic issues. Dumb move huh.

      The polls all were showing it was the economy stupid. On line commentators, and callers to talk shows were urging the NDP to use the plethora of economic ammo available. The massive 100 billion in off the books PPP debt, the Buy high sell low IPP policy, Will McMartin's excellent work comparing 10 years of NDP to 10 years of Gordo, the lack of any credible business experience on Gordo's team, Gordos business background as backroom political bagman for some developer, the back bench status of Ralph Sultan Phd, P.Eng.- the list is endless.

      All this stuff that is coming out now was certainly rumored during the campaign. Paul Willcox even blogged about it.
      Campbell is a notorious liar why didn't you call him one

      Where were you or did James have you on a muzzle?

      Sadly its the great unwashed who are paying for your parties incompetence.
      seth

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      et

      Sep 4, 2009 at 7:11am

      Take out the NPD rhetoric and some simple facts remain. They ( liberals) knew during the election, and after they were re-elected the budget was unsustainable, and did not tell us until way after the fact, ( a fact most of us suspected anyway), they likely were considering the HST during the campaign, not as Hansan said in question period, "he casually mentioned it by a coffee maching to the federal minister of fiance one day and 2 weeks later they had a deal." If anyone believes that crock then our problem is not he liberal party, it is the intelligence of the voting public . It is however interesting to note, that this week rich coleman was crying crocodile tears about his compassion for kids when as a defense to the cuts made to the arts (actually ripped up signed agreements ??contracts) by making it clear he had to provide nourishment for kids, and could not support the arts. It now appears they have found 20 million more for the arts, so based on the defense given i suppose some kids will go hungry. We are stuck with them for 4 years, may 3.5 or 4.5 this time to get away from may election as they are too close to budget time so enjoy the lies and deciet hope the world economy turns around soon, because these clowns are not going to have any influence on it and can only operate effectively when someone else solves the problems.

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      RS

      Sep 4, 2009 at 7:50am

      Hmmmm? If no one believed 'em, why did they vote for em? Voter apathy 'n' ingorance is only outdone by the Liberal lies 'n' deceipt and the lack of a viable alernative.

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      et

      Sep 4, 2009 at 8:10pm

      Good point I will rephrase; " a fact some of us suspected anyway'

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      Schools and Families Left to Grovel

      Sep 10, 2009 at 4:09pm

      Campbell promised schools there would be no cuts in the spring to education and nothing to worry I promise you, you can take my word and therefore schools made no alternative plans for the cash short falls.
      Now teachers and kids just have to go without because were not permitted the truth because Cambpell didn't want to lose the election as also promised to cuts to health care, no HST and no deficit.
      Well one thing for sure, the man can lie with a straight face and has no problems doing kids in with their futures.

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