One of the biggest mistakes Barack Obama made was not doing more to expose George W. Bush’s disastrous financial record as president. As a result, he was quickly blamed for America’s “Great Recession” though everything that set it in motion occurred on his predecessor’s watch. The BC NDP can learn from Obama’s mistake and be brutally honest about the mess they’ve been left by Campbell, Clark & co.
Already, the revisionism has started. The likes of ex-Deputy Premier Rich Coleman have taken to twitter, scolding the NDP for wasteful spending and poor management. Liberal-friendly pundits like Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey are bemoaning John Horgan’s much-needed house cleaning at BC Hydro.
Regarding ousted BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald, I totally concur with this: https://t.co/2W4aWMVXMZ
— Keith Baldrey (@keithbaldrey) July 21, 2017
But it will get much, much worse from here on out – both the depth of the financial disaster for BC and the size of the whoppers told about it.
The problems the NDP will face have already been baked into the system, starting with Gordon Campbell and carried on by Christy Clark. They make the NDP’s Fast Ferries look like chump change (at a mere $250 million over budget, that penny-ante boondoggle looks like a bargain by Liberal standards). Here are just a few depressing realities the NDP must be clear they had nothing to do with – the shortest list I could come up with:
- Under the Liberals, BC Hydro’s total debt and contractual obligations rose by at least $74 Billion (through the crown corp’s debt, plus so-called “deferral” accounts – much like a giant credit card – and ruinous, unnecessary private power contracts)
- Conventional provincial debt essentially doubled
- ICBC was driven deep into the red, necessitating huge, impending rate hikes
- BC Ferries continued their downward spiral, with increased cost to the public, despite being nominally “privatized” (right!)
- Our other once-great, strategically invaluable crown corporation, BC Rail, was sold off for cheap under a cloud of corruption, secrecy and criminality
- Vital social services for seniors, the disabled, children and youth in care, and the impoverished were neglected at positively inhumane levels
- Rather than investing wisely in public transportation, BC doubled down on disastrously expensive, outmoded bridge and highway projects
- The Liberal government presided over massive, taxpayer-funded capital projects which routinely doubled in cost (The convention centre, the stadium roof, Port Mann Bridge and Hwy 1 widening, Northwest Transmission Line, etc.). And that’s to say nothing of Site C Dam, bound for true white elephant status unless it’s prudently halted by our new government
- Real estate and housing costs, as we all know, have spiralled out of reach for many, while income inequality intensifies
- Day care is so expensive and hard to find, especially in urban centres, that it’s become a serious impediment to economic productivity, and a huge burden on BC families
- The Libs presided over an unprecedented hollowing out of jobs in forestry, wood products and pulp and paper – at least 40,000 lost
- The Liberals’ one big economic idea, the galactically stupid LNG industry, proved a massive bust, as this publication warned it would before even the 2013 election!
- Not to beat a dead horse, but so bad is the situation at BC Hydro that it is likely to cost us our Triple-A credit rating, as Moody’s warned earlier this year. Again, not your fault, NDP. But it will mean a higher cost of borrowing, making all the above problems seem that much greater.
In other words, take all the messes created by all our previous Socred and NDP governments, add them together, multiply by pi, and you still don’t come close to capturing the scale of mess left behind by the BC Liberals – these self-styled shrewd fiscal managers (and I apologize to readers for all the other worthy items not on this list, but I’m mindful of your time). The sad reality is, thanks in no small part to our woefully inadequate mainstream media, if the NDP don’t hammer this home every day for years to come, they will wind up being blamed for all of it – and losing the next election because of it.
Get ‘r done
John Horgan has a massive challenge before him: how to get BC back on track fiscally while stimulating new economy jobs and getting back in the business of taking care of people.
Difficult but not impossible.
I’m with the NDP-Greens on scrapping Kinder Morgan. It’s a terrible deal for BC, creating virtually no jobs yet risking so much environmentally and economically. We are also past the point where it’s OK – legally, practically, morally – to thumb our noses at First Nations in their unceded territories. So KM is a non-starter. So are Site C and LNG (though the latter may not yet be clear to Horgan). But that all heightens the need for creative thinking in building the jobs of the future. And there is much the NDP can do on that front – from Super, Natural BC tourism, to the tech sector, real green energy, the film industry, a better-managed forestry sector, value-added local manufacturing and food production, and investing in smart infrastructure.
In terms of tightening our belts, on the Hydro front, go ahead with the BCUC review of Site C – just be sure to cancel the project, and quickly. Do whatever is in your power to unwind these sweetheart private power contracts. And quit pretending you can freeze rates. It’s not your fault, but the reality is they will have to rise for some time to come. Find a way for this to impact lower income people less than the rest of us – we don’t need to add to their poverty with astronomical power bills.
No one knows how long this NDP-Green partnership will last, so you need to prioritize which election promises come first, and the one that has the greatest potential to impact all the others is election financing reform. If you do nothing else, getting big money and “pay-to-play” out of our system would strengthen our economy and democracy.
But when it falls apart and you’re forced back to the polls, remember that if you haven’t successfully put the blame for all of this squarely where it belongs – on the shoulders of the BC Liberals – then it will fall upon you instead and crush you…and a lot of other innocent British Columbians too.
You don’t have to be brutal – just brutally honest.