Martyn Brown: In B.C.’s election of duelling blackguards, Andrew Wilkinson is the worst

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      Just when B.C. voters thought that nothing could trump NDP premier John Horgan’s snap election call as an unconscionable act of cynical opportunism, along comes his chief opponent, B.C. Liberal Andrew Wilkinson, to disprove that notion.

      Today, in what is arguably the most cynical, most dishonest, and most outright dumb all-time acts of desperate vote-buying, Wilkinson has vowed to scrap B.C.’s seven percent provincial sales for a year and then cut it to three per cent the next year.

      “When they go low, we go lower,” might as well be his motto, in more ways than one.

      It shows that Wilkinson’s B.C. Liberals have learned absolutely nothing from their well-deserved banishment from office following former premier Christy Clark’s pathetic attempt to throw her party’s “principles” out the door, in her vain effort to cling to power.

      Before the COVID pandemic brought our economy to a standstill, crippling government revenues in the process, the sales tax was projected to yield $7.5 billion to provincial coffers.

      It is the B.C. government’s second-largest source of funding, accounting for some 22 percent of total taxation revenues, as the budget defines them.

      Deliberately losing whatever remains of that drastically reduced revenue stream wouldn’t just be grossly irresponsible; it would be insane.

      This is what the lust for absolute power does to otherwise smart people like the Brainiac Wilkinson: it turns them and anyone who votes for them into partisan lunatics, devoid of all sense and principle.

      Fiscal discipline was supposed to be the B.C. Liberals’ central tenet. No longer. 

      Talk about a miracle worker in all the wrong ways.

      Wilkinson has done the impossible: he has made Horgan a fiscal hawk by comparison and he has reminded us all why his party is still so unworthy of public trust.

      Just when you might have been toying with the thought that it’s safe to wade gently back into the B.C. Liberals’ reassuring waters, their Great White Shark now looms newly dangerous, anxious to prey on voters’ ill-advised trust.

      Eliminating the PST won’t do anything to fundamentally put our economy back on track, and Wilkinson knows it.

      Eliminating the PST won’t cause anyone who is out of work due to COVID to buy a new car, let alone a new house.

      It won’t “save” a single retail small business from lost sales that have nothing whatsoever to do with the provincial sales tax.

      It won’t do a thing to help the struggling tourism industry, which isn’t being slaughtered by sales tax, but rather, by a global pandemic that presents all travel as a life-and-death decision.

      Eliminating the PST and then putting not quite half of its rate back won’t do anything to “restore confidence” in B.C.—as the Liberals’ campaign slogan would have it—which was not, and is not, in question.

      Even now, with COVID raging, B.C. continues to have one of the strongest regional economies on the planet, thanks in no small measure to the good job that the Horgan government has done in building on his predecessor’s impressive track record.

      In fact, Wilkinson's entire B.C. Liberal team knows that, and I would be gobsmacked if it was even consulted about his wacky “killer” election promise.

      It’s not the sales tax that is crippling the tourism industry, devastating retail businesses, shutting down restaurants, bars and clubs, and otherwise wreaking havoc during in this ongoing state of emergency.

      Surely, no one is so naïve and stupid as to believe that kissing goodbye to such an enormously crucial source of revenue won’t actually make today’s problems even worse.

      It will not only make public debt skyrocket even higher, in flagrant contempt of everything the B.C. Liberals have supposedly always fought against; it will demand brutally painful cuts to crucial public services that only a fool would invite upon themselves.

      How former B.C. Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong can support his boss’s shameful repudiation of fiscal prudence in such a disgusting attempt to buy votes is beyond me.

      Have B.C. taxpayers learned nothing from the fallout from the 25 percent cut in personal income tax rates that the B.C. Liberal government I worked for imposed in 2001?

      As I have repeatedly written, the scope and timing of that tax cut even sorely surprised me in the process, as Gordon Campbell’s top political adviser and public campaign director. 

      And that cut in revenues was chump change in comparison to what Wilkinson is proposing to sacrifice, in his egregious attempt to out-snake-oil Horgan in his bid for absolute power.

      Don’t kid yourself, Wilkinson’s Great Bribe will mean whopping cuts to health care, education, child protection, income assistance, public safety, public transit—you name it—in years to come.

      All to reward his party’s rich friends and benefactors with a consumption tax cut that would benefit them most of all.

      It is, of course, the absurdly wealthy who would stand to gain the most from the B.C. Liberals’ crass, hare-brained boodle-bribe.

      And here, I thought Justin Trudeau’s irresponsible spending spree was as low as any politician could ever dare stoop.

      Not so, apparently. 

      Taking his cue from Horgan’s success in winning so many Surrey voters’ support by eliminating bridge tolls last time out, Wilkinson hopes to do the NDP one better with a tax cut that would cost seven times more than that generous gift.

      His PST promise would cost at least three times more than Gordon Campbell’s 2001 income tax cut, which at least some economists defended for its stimulus benefits.

      No one—absolutely no one—in their right mind would so defend Wilkinson’s pandering as a welcome answer to all that ails our economy in this time of COVID.

      I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised at his patently irresponsible ploy to buy you with your own precious tax dollars.

      Wilkinson was, after the all, the guy who said this during the 2018 B.C. Liberal leadership debates about why his party fared so poorly in the 2017 campaign:

      "We were preaching at people from 30,000 feet. Telling them about credit ratings, telling them about our debt-to-GDP ratio," said the one-time attorney general.

      "It meant nothing in their living rooms. The NDP were in their living rooms offering them a cheaper way of life."

      True as that observation surely was, it should have alerted us all to the main lesson Wilkinson drew from that experience.

      Namely, that there is nothing he won’t do to effectively bribe voters with their own money, no matter how much it costs or who it might hurt.

      All of that fine talk about “balanced budgets”, “paying as you go”, and not “burying our children in dead-weight debt” is, for Wilkinson’s Liberals, just so much b.s.

      But I’m here to tell you—from what I saw and helped author at the New Era revolution from my ringside seat as minister after minister came to cabinet pleading for more money after their public services had been savaged—tax cuts don’t pay for themselves.

      It’s a lie that fiscal spendthrifts tell themselves—and sometimes, even naively believe—as a universally discredited excuse to buy power by convincing voters that money and crucial public services both grow on trees.

      It is a lie that all British Columbians should know from firsthand experience mostly serves to widen the growing gulf of income disparity, as it also takes its devastating human toll in service cuts that most hurt those in most need—patients, students, children at risk, the homeless, and all of the most vulnerable citizens in our society.

      That is what Wilkinson and his crew are now trying to wish upon our province through their dishonest proposal on the PST.

      As a duplicitous gesture of crass opportunism and political chicanery, it takes the cake.

      And it is yet another strong reason, as if B.C. voters need one, to reject Wilkinson’s party and candidates as the dangerous force for a poorer province that they stand to wrongly impose if they should ever form a majority government. 

      If Wilkinson can so betray his own party’s principles and the public interest by wishing this wacky policy on B.C., I actually wouldn’t put it past him to sneakily replace the PST with some form of revived harmonized sales tax (HST)—just as so many in the business community have been pushing for.

      Is that his real plan: bringing in a three per cent PST in a year’s time, then gradually broadening its scope to apply as a new form of “value-added” tax, in new “harmony” with his Liberal allies in the federal government?

      This is madness. 

      And if B.C. voters are dumb enough or shortsighted enough to fall for it, they will have only themselves to blame for putting us all in the poorhouse, save and except the wealthy few who least need the “help” Wilkinson is proposing.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at