Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Liberals heading back into 2001-style change, cuts

It's looking liken the Liberals are ready to launch their third term as they did their first - with a full-tilt overhaul of government, conducted on so many fronts and so quickly that critics are left behind.
Speculation, of course. Gordon Campbell and company are not chatty about their intentions.
But the signs are there. In 2001, the Liberals blindly cut taxes by 25 per cent and then set out to shrink government to make up the $1.2-billion in lost revenue.
This time, the shortfall will be much greater. Instead of tax cuts, overly optimistic revenue projections will be the cause. Economic growth, natural gas prices, housing starts - the budget over-estimated them all.
Campbell still says the deficit this year will be close to the $495 million in the budget. That number relied on spending cuts in eight of 19 ministries.
Now another $1 billion or more in savings are needed.
It sets the stage for a repeat of the 18 months following the 2001, when the Liberals rolled out massive change.
In health, for example, the government created five regional health authorities and a provincial authority for specialized care.
The core review was hunting for anything government could stop doing.
And the Liberals were preparing a destructive treaty referendum, which they almost immediately repudiated.
Now, the health authorities are being pushed to find up to $320 million in spending cuts. That's before the next round of cost control to deal with the faulty budget numbers. Another re-org is also rumoured. And Kevin Falcon is the new health minister. Falcon is underestimated; his willingness to say what he thinks should get more credit. But he brings a bulldozer history to a ministry where problems are often best faced with a scalpel.
And once again, something much like the core review is under way. The main order of business for new ministers, said Campbell, is looking for savings. Rich Coleman has cancelled, at least so far, a program that allowed poor and disabled children to go to summer camp to save about $365,000. Shameful, and an indication of how deep the coming cuts will go.
Instead of a referendum aimed, hopelessly and irrelevantly, at curtailing First Nation rights, Campbell is embarked on a dramatic - "seismic" - effort to recognize them and enshrine co-government and shared decision-making and revenue.
It's an effective tactic. If you want to make big changes in any setting, create a crisis. People become more willing to accept disruption, lost services and haste. Those opposed to any policy are overwhelmed by the flood of changes.
For example, the coming Recognition and Reconciliation Act, redefining relations with First Nations, would be a tough sell in normal times. (I'll look at it a subsequent column.)
For everyone - First Nations, business, non-aboriginals, municipalities - the act means big changes. And aboriginal, business, municipal representatives are nervous about this deal, basically reached behind closed doors.
But, as with the forgotten treaty referendum, the government is pressing ahead.
There are a few big differences between now and 2001. The fiscal pressures haven't been created by tax cuts; the economic is real.
There aren't just two opposition MLAs this time to try and keep track of the sweeping changes. The New Democrats have a chance to help make sure the public gets a chance to consider the impact of cuts and changes. That didn't happen in the Liberals' first years.
Nor do the Liberals have the same mandate. About 46 per cent of voters supported the party, down from 58 per cent in 2001. A majority of voters wanted another party in power.
But our system has somehow turned into a winner-takes-all event. We elect, more or less, a dictator for four years and then get to decide how we feel about the results.
Expect wild times, much more like the Liberals' first years after the 2001 election than their second term.
Footnote: Campbell has promised a revised budget Sept. 1. The next financial news will come in mid-July, when the auditor general releases the final numbers for the fiscal year that ended on March 31.


DPL said...

A lot of folks including you, warned the scorched earth process would return. Who listened? Gordo has the numbers and can and will do what he wants and his supporters will still say he is just great. His massive PR team knows who is paying them and the letters to the editors are blaming others. Strange place where we are living. And now it seems a few thousand emails got ate by somebody's dog.

BC Liberals Suck said...

Paul, the privatization is also picking up and I would think that new Ministers & staff are being told to find what can be privatized & outsourced. Obviously there are corporations waiting in the wings for some of the offerings.

This administration has absolutely no real opposition and there are simply no checks & balances. They have a blank cheque and they are & will speed up the destruction of BC as many of us have known it. Scorched earth is the right phrase, the only part missing is the plundering and pillaging before the match is lit & thrown.

By the time most people in BC realize what has been done to them & their province, it will be far too late. It pretty much already is. Their mission has been clear from the beginning. Take the money from the bagmen/lobbyists/party donators, privatize to their corporate friends, saddle citizens with high-risk burdens, cut public services and turn a blind eye to the harm done to the public good.
De-regulate, keep secrets, don't write things down, impede transparency and underfund watchdogs. That is Liberal-style democracy and they've never hidden it from any of us.

Anonymous said...

So what’s the answer? Pretty easy to be the negative critic but what is your solution? Where does the money come from?

Anonymous said...

to annon 8.26.

The money should have would have come from PUBLIC ASSETS and BUSINESSES that are being given away to 'FRIENDS OF THE LIEING LIBERALS. The prime example is the give away of water licences to private power companies with BC Hydro footing billions of dollars in lost revenues that should go to the taxpaying public not so called 'investors' whose only interest in BC is profit in THEIR POCKETS. Gordo has sold out the Province for thirty pieces of silver.

ritaemilia said...

Thank you so much!!! I love all your blogs! With good writing and Nice writing style, Keep up the good work.. Looking forward to reading more from you.. ;-)