Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Liberal campaign and a sick democracy

Is this really democracy?
The whole election process now looks like a sham. The Liberals rejected a harmonized sales tax during the campaign, less then three months ago.
Not part of their plans, period. The association that represents restaurant owners asked all parties about the harmonized tax prior to the election.
The Liberals said the tax would cover too many items that were currently tax-exempt and prevent future sales tax changes. It was not of their plans.
And then, with no consultation, it was announced last week. Anyone who voted for the Liberals on the basis of that commitment has been played for a sap.
There is actually much to recommend the tax change.
But in a real democracy, a party would make those arguments and let the voters decide.
Not in B.C.
The Liberals pledged during the campaign that the deficit this fiscal year would not be more than the $495 million forecast in the February budget.
Gordon Campbell and Colin Hansen both committed, less than three months ago, to that number. You could believe the budget, they said.
The claims were ridiculous. Every economist and analyst - and anyone who looked at the budget - knew the deficit would be much, much larger.
After the election, Campbell revealed the deficit would be much larger. The explanation - that income and corporate tax transfers from the federal government were lower than expected - was ludicrous.
Almost all the main assumptions underlying the budget - housing starts, natural gas prices, economic growth, welfare rolls - were overly optimistic. Within hours of the budget, independent analysts were saying the deficit would be much larger.
The NDP was complicit in this scam. Carole James unveiled a platform and spending plan based on the Liberals’ budget assumptions. The New Democrats said they had to accept the forecast. It was also politically safer to build a budget based on optimistic numbers than to face reality. (Though straight talk might have had advantages. If one in 30 non-voters had been inspired by an honest NDP plan, the party could have been in government now. Or, of course, the plan could have cost the party existing support.)
Back to the Liberal campaign’s distance from reality. They left the door open for cuts to programs and services, but didn’t say which ones would be chopped.
Campbell did pledge that health care and education would be protected.
Less than three months later, health care is being cut significantly. Here on Vancouver Island, the health authority plans to do five per cent fewer surgeries to save money. That means 3,160 people who would have been helped by surgery in the 12 months will now wait.
The story is similar in other health authorities where cuts are being made to the number of patients treated and the level of care.
A politician could try to make the case that it makes fiscal sense to deny timely treatment. When government revenues are down, people should expect a lower standard of health care.
But the Liberals did not make that case. Campbell promised to protect health care, and then didn’t.
You have to wonder about all those MLAs, who ran on platforms that have now been abandoned. They told people in their communities what would happen if their party formed government.
It was not true. They misled the voters.
It adds up to a grim scenario. About 51 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in May and about 24 per cent of eligible voters supported the Liberals.
They were supporting a $495-million deficit, no health cuts, no new sales tax.
None of those are part of the Liberals’ real plans.
The election wasn’t really about policies or platforms. It was about electing a dictator or, at least, a leader who would do much as he chose for the next four years.
That’s a form of democracy. But not the one Canadians have been promised.
Footnote: Hansen says the Liberals didn’t scam voters on the HST. The new tax was “not on our radar” during the election campaign, he said. (Although Ontario had introduced the same tax earlier in the spring.) It defies reason to claim that the government suddenly looked around and noticed the need to make a huge shift in tax burden from business to consumers.


DPL said...

Nobody misled on harmonized sales tax during B.C. election says finance minister
By Kent Spencer, Canwest News ServiceJuly 28, 2009 6:44 AM
B.C. businesses weren't misled during the election campaign by Liberal assurances there were "no plans" to implement a tax that has since been adopted, says Finance Minister Colin Hansen.

"The harmonized sales tax was not on our radar," Hansen told Canwest News Service yesterday. We said it was not part of our election platform and it wasn't."

The Liberals provided written statements during the spring campaign to restaurant owners and home builders that they had "no plans" to implement the controversial HST.

Their plans changed on July 23, three months after winning a majority in the B.C. legislature.

The province now says it will combine the seven per cent provincial sales tax with the five per cent federal goods and services tax for a single HST tax rate of 12 per cent.

The HST, which will become effective on July 1, 2010, will add seven per cent tax to many items such as haircuts and cable TV that were not previously taxed.

Hansen said businesses will benefit by being able to deduct the HST as an expense and savings will be passed along to consumers.

He said two things happened to change the government's mind: Ontario agreed to adopt HST and B.C. was permitted to set a lower tax rate than other provinces.

Ontario's action occurred well before the May 12 vote in B.C., but Hansen explained the party was "well into election mode."

He said B.C.'s course of action only "became obvious" after the election was concluded.

"If Ontario adopted the HST and we didn't, our overseas exporters would be at a huge competitive disadvantage," he said.

Restaurateurs have questioned the B.C. Liberals' honesty.

"They're saying they just came up with it. It's up for the average citizen to determine if they were misleading us. It seems like an awfully short time to come up with a complicated deal," said Mark von Schellwitz, spokesman for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

Hansen said he understands the skepticism.

"I get it that people have a right to question that. The optics are what they are," he said.

The openness and timing of the government's announcement, coming during the barbecue season with the legislature away, have also been questioned.

The government's announcement gave scant information about the dozens of new taxes coming forward.

Hansen claimed the tax will not cost families $2,000 a year, as some economists have reported.

Hansen said studies in Atlantic Canada, where the tax has already been implemented, have shown that prices come down as businesses return their savings to consumers.

He admitted new home purchasers face tough times. The NDP says the tax will be $36,000 on an $800,000 home; Hansen put the amount at $20,200.

"That's significant," he agreed.

Asked if the HST decision will be revisited, Hansen hesitated for a few seconds.

"This is the right decision for B.C. I don't see any reason to," he eventually responded.

Dawn Steele said...

We keep rewarding political parties that place guile and political opportunism ahead of principle, so where is the incentive to do better?

Both parties have disgraced themselves and lost enormous credibility and the democratic process will be all the poorer for it.

Gazetteer said...

It would appear that the good Mr. Hansen, a fine fellow I not long ago thought might be a viable 'big tent' candidate for the BC Liberals in the next election, has, unfortunately, suddenly demonstrated a willingness to act as a serial obfuscator for the cause.


Re: That 1 in 30 mentioned by Mr. Willcocks that could have changed the course of the election just past.....How many of them might have been shut-out by a wee bit of anti-democratic legislation known as Bill 42 that was foisted upon us in a most undemocratic fashion by Mr. Campbell last year?


Anonymous said...

BC Liberals make a side deal
B.C. to ease tax blow for restaurants

Patrick Brethour reports in today's (July 28/09) G&M that on Friday July 24 restaurateurs had a meeting involving Finance Minister Colin Hansen, members of the business community and Premier Gordon Campbell.

No word yet on when the BC Liberals will consult with consumers on how they will absorb a $2 BILLION tax increase in the midst of this fiscal depression.

@DPL - To cut-N-paste a whole © article is 'bad form' and could cause our host (PW) a legal headache he doesn't need. Far better to post a summary and/or a few select snips and provide a link to the source.

DPL said...

Gosh anyone calling himself anon might be better not trying to educate a dumb person like myself, who actually uses his initials. I rather think that if Mr. Wilcox didn't want to accept the story he would have removed it pretty quickly . I notice it's still here. I don't do snips but prefer to do the whole thing or nothing. Thanks for your great concern

momoc said...

Hi i`m not from your country. But i`m always read about tax on US and britain. I dont` know how you all live with a lots of tax to be paid. Even in my country Malaysia we still have less tax to be paid but people are suffering with high cost of living. My country are on the way to become like your country. The politician doesnt' care about their people.

find insurance