When I tell any truth it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those who do.
-- William Blake
Every household in British Columbia recently received a message from the B.C. Liberal government purporting to be an "information" mailing about the province's economy, asking for your opinion on how to spend budgetary surpluses in coming years.
Unfortunately, the mailing is nothing less than pre-election Liberal Party propaganda, as well as false advertising paid for by taxpayers.
As an antidote, Political Connections offers this annotated version of key sections of the shameless party-advertising flier sent at your expense.
Title: "Your Surplus, Your Priorities: Building B.C. Together"
It could have been better called: "Your Surplus, Our Priorities: Bilking B.C. Altogether".
"It was just three years ago that B.C. was ranked among the lowest in Canada for economic growth....We are now turning the corner in economic growth and rank second only to Alberta."
FACTS: Statistics Canada reported on November 9 that B.C.'s actual rank was tied for fourth spot in growth in real gross domestic product in 2003, the last full year available.
Newfoundland led the country with a jump of 6.8 percent, followed by Saskatchewan at 4.5 percent and Alberta at 2.7 percent. B.C. was tied with New Brunswick for fourth place at 2.5 percent. In 2002, B.C. ranked seventh. If that's "turning the corner", it's an awfully small turn.
And has B.C.'s economy really been that bad and is it now that good? In 2000, the last full year of an NDP government, B.C. had a 4.6-percent growth in real gross domestic product and topped three percent four times between 1991 and 2000. Since then, under the B.C. Liberals, real GDP was 0.9 percent in 2001, 3.3 percent in 2002, and dropped down to 2.5 percent in 2003.
B.C.'s real GDP is expected to reach 2.9 percent this year and three percent in 2005.
"There are positive signs throughout our province that the economy is improving."
FACTS: There are also many negative signs about the economy that you won't find anywhere in the government leaflet. Since the Liberals took office, for example, the number of people using food banks in B.C. grew by nine percent, from 77,237 per month in 2001 to 84,317 per month in 2004, according to the Canadian Association of Food Banks.
There's trouble on the other end of the economic scale. The number of business immigrants to B.C. has dropped from a high of 11,614 in 1993 to just 3,011 in 2003, according to B.C. Stats.
And a new study says employers in Vancouver will have the worst hiring climate of any city in Western Canada for the year's last quarter, with a net job increase of just one percent compared to an average of 19 percent across the region.
Manpower Canada Inc., a Toronto--based private company, says eight percent of Vancouver employers plan to increase their workforce in the year's last quarter, but seven percent expect to cut back.
And although B.C.'s unemployment rate of 6.9 percent in October is an improvement over the 9.1-percent peak it hit in September 2003, it is still higher than its 6.8-percent level when the Liberals took office in May 2001.
"The [previous NDP] provincial government faced a large and growing deficit because it was spending more than it could afford."
FACTS: The B.C. budget for 1999 was balanced under the NDP, and the 2000 budget had a record surplus of $1.5 billion, but the B.C. Liberals soon racked up the largest two deficits in provincial history.
The Liberals will have added more than $5 billion in debt to the province's books between 2001 and 2005, which anyone else would say is spending more than they can afford.
"To help B.C. compete with other provinces, a total of 31 tax reductions initiatives were introduced."
FACTS: The B.C. Liberals did, indeed, cut taxes big time in 2001, with a $2-billion reduction that went primarily to high-income earners and big business.
But the following two years the Liberals actually hiked taxes by $1 billion, most of which hit lower- and middle-income earners.
Flier Headlines: "Improving Patient Care"
FACTS: Waiting lists are up by 30 percent since 2001, despite the claim, repeated in the flier, that the Liberals would "make sure high-quality health care is there when and where you need it".
Hospitals and emergency rooms have closed in several communities despite local opposition, including St. Mary's Hospital in New Westminster and the only hospital in Kimberley.
"Enhancing Education in B.C."
FACTS: Since 2001, 113 schools have been closed, more than 3,300 full-time teacher positions will have been eliminated, and school librarian positions will have been cut by 25 percent. During the same period, the number of special-education teachers dropped by 17.5 percent.
"Helping Children and Families"
FACTS: A new report by the international group Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development gives British Columbia the worst marks of any province in a new report on child-care programs, saying: "there appears to be a lack of clarity about policy, strategies and implementation." That always helps.
And it's no accident: the B.C. Liberals have cut funding for the Ministry of Children and Family Development by 11 percent since they took office, taking $171 million away from the very people they are "helping".
"We're really saying here that public spending, public money, should be used for the public good and not for the self-interest of the governing party."
Whoops! That was Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty on November 18 explaining how his government was making the independent provincial auditor responsible for deciding what is and is not partisan advertising. Must not be any Campbell Liberals in Ontario!