NDP must name & shame or catch the blame – Don’t let Libs off hook for disastrous record

Former BC Liberal Premiers Christy Clark (Kris Krug/Flickr) and Gordon Campbell (Province of BC/Flickr)

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.

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

NDP Premier John Horgan and his cabinet being sworn in by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon (Photo: Province of BC / Flickr)

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.


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

23 thoughts on “NDP must name & shame or catch the blame – Don’t let Libs off hook for disastrous record

  1. How will tourists get to “SUPER NATURAL B. C” to grow your tourism industry with out oil to power the airplanes to bring them there?

    1. Mike, the reason oil is persistently hanging around $50/barrel and why BC’s LNG projects were doomed to fail is because there is a global oversupply of these commodities – especially as fossil fuel demand tails off while renewables become cheaper. That means there’s already enough pipeline and shipping capacity in the world – no need to take additional risks with new projects. So don’t worry – people will still be able to enjoy Super, Natural BC regardless of these outmoded projects not proceeding.


  2. KM’s pipeline has to be scrapped, because there is no world-class equipment to clean-up a dirty, tar sands spill. Piping the toxic, tar sands through BC with no equipment to clean-up, is a stupid idea to start with and is an insult to the intelligence of the British Columbian people. To understand the destructiveness of a tar sands spill, Google and read, “Michigan oil spill effects could be repeated here” by Michelle Barlond-Smith. What happened to the Kalamazoo River, we do not want to happen to the Fraser River. The dilbit is riddled with cancer-causing carcinogens. Let’s keep beautiful British Columbia.

  3. I strongly, strongly agree, Damien and commentators!!

    To the Horgan government: This is not about you [wanting to be positive, avoid the look of a vendetta or what-have-you.]. The citizens of this province have a right to know about financial crimes, corruption and shell games.

    I’m sure the BC Liberals devoted much time to their shredding and triple-deletes. But there should be traces left out there somewhere, especially if delay is avoided. There could also be a many-pronged approach to share the massive research load from 16 years of corruption.

    For example, perhaps the new Solicitor-General or Attorney-General Eby has the ability to request RCMP financial crimes investigation in key areas.

    Maybe BC’s auditor general can look at the causes of the past BC Liberal governments’ extreme debt and waste, if only to stop the bleeding. This might include the financial decay of our crown corporations. And, since there’s a limit to the auditor-general’s capacity, perhaps the Horgan government can hire outside auditors to tackle some topics.

    Finally, consider encouraging specific 3rd-party reports from organizations ranging from taxpayer and business organizations to CCPA-BC.

    These could include BC taxpayers subsidizing party-donor corporations, as in the Mount Polley cleanup. Or how BC Liberals fudged their books for fake balanced budgets. Or how, as one ex-BC Rail accountant told me, BC Rail was set up to be sold by artificially creating operational debt.

    All government-derived findings should be released to the public via government websites [as models of transparency]. They should also go to alternate media sites and independent bloggers. After all, most local MSM [eg Postmedia, Global, CTV and Black Press] will just bury the results.

    We’re still in the age of hedge fund journalism. While the information should go to all, the public will only find out if an NDP government reaches over the heads of MSM. [I speak as one who once worked for Postmedia. Self-censorship was expected].

    It will take great repetition to counter the constantly-repeated lie of BC’s Liberal alleged fiscal competence. So let the shoes keep dropping from all directions – one report and expose after another. The public has a right to know.

    1. Indeed. And I note that I published this piece the day before the PNWLNG decision was announced by Petronas. Right on cue, the Postmedia pundits picked up the bogus Liberal framing that this was somehow the NDP’s fault – 8 days into their reign – and ran with it.

  4. Great article Damien……..

    The NDP/Greens must keep their boots to the libs throats. BC Hydro has caused so much damage to their once shining image with the Libs leading them along the way. I have personally dealt with dozens of lies from their employees mouths, and also enjoyed hiked up insurance for my little truck, through ICBC.

    I am praying really hard here, that Horgan and Weaver will open both their books up. Us BC’ers deserve the truth and the justice, for what the Libs part in all this is, while at the helm. It would be a HUGE mistake, if they let them off the hook here.

    Keep up the great work Damien, I appreciate your accomplishments thus far.

    1. Thanks Koby! You hit on a great point: open up the books. There’s nothing to lose. You appoint a Royal Commission or independent investigation of some sort and let them audit books, internal communications (that escaped triple-deletion!), call witnesses, etc. If they unearth the kinds of wrongdoing we suspect they will, great – you’ve got an independent report, possibly even judicial findings that you can act on in an unpartisan way. And you now have it all on the record, showing that these weren’t your mistakes. If we’re wrong and there’s nothing to see here, no harm done. The NDP badly need to rebrand themselves away from the image of incompetent wastrels which the Liberals and media like Mike Smyth and Vaughn Palmer so successfully painted them. That process has already begun but it needs to go so much further, and one important tool is independent investigations which clearly demonstrate how bad the Libs were, thereby inoculating the NDP from catching the blame for all this.

  5. forget all the rest.
    Focus on BC Rail and Christy Clark’s alledged involvement.
    THEN give all the evidence to the US Dept of Justice since ……the only other competing bidder for the railway was a US company……if the US Dept of Justice find reasonable grounds to suspect that there was insider information that caused a US company to be unfairly (illegally) treated…………
    OOOOOOOO baby! 10 years in a US prison …..minimum……staring potential co conspirators in the face……will make the toughest white collar criminal talk like a chipmunk on benzedrine.
    Start by squeezing the $6 million dollar men(Bas &i Virk) who signed non disclosure agreements with the BC govt to make their testimony go away…..the rest should follow.

    Christy Clark could use a prison diet after snuffing at the Liberal trough for 16 years.

  6. Hell yeah!!! Fake conservatives and fake liberals have no problem blaming others like the NDP, Greens, environmentalists, city slickers, NGOs and me for their errors.

  7. Bearing in mind that like food, water and clothing, housing is a basic human need and a human right, If the NDP doesn’t put maximum effort and strategy into solving the “housing crisis,” it will only get much worse and believe me, lead to rioting in the streets. The foreign buyers’ tax should be increased to at least 30% and strict regulations instituted that prevent wealthy corrupt foreigners with stolen/laundered money as well as domestic “speculators” and “developers” from hyper-inflating the cost of housing. With families paying 60, 70 and 80% of their total net incomes to cover mortgage costs (at suppressed interests rates that have to rise because of overall personal debt) we are in the midst of a real estate “bubble” that will inevitably burst.

    On a positive note, it is good to see Christy Clark – living proof of the “Peter Principle” and joined at the hip with the real estate hucksters, e.g., Bob Renni – is no longer premier.
    I look forward to the Liberals dumping her as leader.

  8. I hope that Horgan and the NDP take Damien’s (and Rafe Mair’s) advice and immediately, categorically lay out for the public the economic, environmental and social waste that the CClark’s Lib-Cons have perpetuated over their 16 years. Damien has done a great job and service here. Hopefully Horgan will take his list and attach figures to each item so that British Columbians can truly see how much waste under Clark has occurred. The Lib-Cons will go all out to blame the NDP so in boxing terms it’s necessary for NDP to get their blows in first. If we had a decent, honest investigative MSM, as we did in the past, we could rely on them in part for getting the message out but not with the likes of Palmer, Baldrey inter alia – they are lazy wimps and should be ashamed to call themselves journalists. Meanwhile the likes of us could and should send out Damien’s list to friends, family and acquaintances. Horgan (with Weaver) need to succeed. We cannot afford any more Lib-Cons – it’s too costly and depressing.

  9. I confess that when I first moved to BC I was so frustrated with the arrogance and attitudes of the then ruling NDP government I couldn’t wait to vote them out of office thinking nothing could be worse.

    I also ‘assumed’ that the Liberals were Liberals and I certainly preferred them federally so naturally I voted with my heart and not my head.

    Boy was I wrong on both counts. I learned quickly the meaning of “Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it”.

    Last election I voted once again with my heart and my head but alas had the misfortune of living in Kelowna and my efforts were for naught along with my vote.

    Luckily, after sixteen long wasted years,enough voters saw enough light at the end of the tunnel to avoid being hit by the train again, but it was way too close for comfort.

    Like it or not, John Horgan really must hold all of those phony Liberals, including Campbell and their handlers like Morgan, MacLean, Kinder and Edwards as well as the transplanted harpercons and the cowardly media to account and not pull any punches and make the RCMP finally do the job we pay them almost too handsomely to do.

    Hopefully we got it right this time now that some of the absurdities of BC politics have even been highlighted in the New York Times! Take note Vaughan, Keith, Bill etc. ad nauseum.

    We can thank our stars that all of the internet bloggers kept up the pressure all those years,
    especially Raif, Laila, Norm, Mary, Damien and oh so many faithful and devoted and knowledgeable others too numerous to name here.

  10. New premiers are often reluctant to push the investigation of their predecessor too far lest it be seen as a vendetta. Premier Horgan must understand this situation is unique – never before has a government of any length much less 16 years had a virtual free ride from the media! The public has had to rely on bloggers and private citizens for the least snippet of government secrecy. When you consider the journalist heroes of this province going back to Bruce Hutchison, Jack Scott, Jack Webster, Pat Burns, Jim Hume Marjorie Nichols Jack Wasserman, Ben Meisner, Barry Mather, Barbara McClintock, and on it goes, and see the boneless wonders kissing the asses of the establishment you want to puke. Can you imagine Jack Webster if he were alive and could read that mutual masturbation agreement between the oil industry and Postmedia? Premier Horgan no one is asking that you start a witch hunt – just appoint a Royal Commission to examine the Crown Corps under Campbell, let the chips fall where they may,
    The public are entitled to know what happened and where the money went and you sir, ate the only person who can make that happen.

    1. The information presented to the public should – rather must – include true copies of those documents naming the individuals involved. The emails as written, papers with actual signatures, evidence by any other name. This way the facts cannot be blown off, as too many are want to do. Witch hunt, no, exposure to the truth, yes. The citizens have a right to know! Clark once boasted of planning to televise the Stanley Cup riot trials, now let’s televise hers!!

  11. Well said Damien. The Liberals aren’t just bad managers of the economy, they accomplished that less than mediocrity, by lying to the people of BC again and again. As far as BC hydro goes the manipulation of the legislation that the Liberals did in order to set up the disastrous financial boondoggle that would be Site C also needs to be talked about. The attack on the ALR, the negation of the BCUC, the cutbacks to environmental oversight, the loss of energy planning, etc. were all the means the Liberals used to push their ends. Years of constructive legislation designed to keep our Province from the very ripoffs our former honourable government was promoting, you know, all that unnecessary red tape keeping the land and water and our pockebooks from disappearing.

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