Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Liberals failing the critical competence test

The last NDP government blew up in spectacular fashion, tossed out in 2001 for a long list of sins.
Two were critical. The public decided the New Democrats were both untrustworthy and incompetent. (Rightly, I would add.)
It’s early days, but the Liberals look to be at risk of the same damning judgments.
Trust is shot. An Ipsos Reid poll found 72 per cent of British Columbians believe the Liberals intentionally mislead the public about the province’s finances during the election campaign. Only 10 per cent believed Gordon Campbell’s claim that he really thought the February budget was attainable.
And competence looks shakier by the day.
Take the decision to slash grants to parent advisory councils. Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid revealed the cuts after a photo op where she announced $500,000 in Olympic spirit funding for schools. The cut affects every school in the province, but hits hardest in areas where PACs have the toughest time raising money. It matters to tens of thousands of parents.
MacDiarmid dropped the $7.6 million cut from support - from $20 to $10 per student - as an afterthought.
That’s not competent, it’s sloppy and rude.
Three days later, Gambling Minister Rich Coleman defended the cut. (The money came from gambling grants, so he was involved.)
Read carefully his quote from the Times Colonist. “I haven’t had a bunch of blowback from the PACs since the minister mentioned on Tuesday they would probably get half,” said Coleman. (Any group affected by cuts should note that. Without “blowback,” you’re forgotten.)
But what’s really striking is the phrase “probably get half.” The education minister has announced the cut. Parent councils are planning reductions in help for kids and schools. And Coleman is suggesting the decision hasn’t really been made.
It’s not an isolated stumble. The government tried to renege on $20 million in grants to non-profits that had received written promises of three-year funding.
Campbell defended the decision. The letters were’?t real contracts, he said.
And then Coleman restored the money because, he agreed, the commitments were in fact real.
After MacDiarmid cut $110 million from school maintenance funding, some districts said they would have to cancel projects aimed at meeting the province’s 2010 deadline for becoming carbon neutral.
No problem, said John Yap, the junior minister for climate action. They can have until 2012. His staff quickly contradicted the claim, saying the 2010 deadline is still in place.
Which raises three questions. Is a climate action minister - with extra pay, staff and all that - really needed? If so, shouldn’t he know the basics? And how much thought has really gone into this carbon neutral by 2010 edict?
None of this inspires confidence on the competence front. Neither did the first couple of days in the legislature after last week’s break.
The NDP used question period to ask about the elimination of $130,000 funding to B.C. School Sports. The non-profit does great work organizing regional and provincial high school sports events. The big volunteer contribution means the money goes a long way. And the government eliminated all its funding.
It’s a bad decision. And it ended up being defended, badly, by three cabinet ministers: MacDiarmid, the education minister; Ida Chong, junior minister of healthy living and sport; and Mary McNeil, junior minister for the Olympics and ActNow BC. (Chong stumbled badly in answering questions, or more accurately not answering, about a 27-per-cent cut to funding for children’s sports.)
Three ministers, all with a role in youth sports. That does not suggest competence, or concern about the taxpayers’ money. Cut any one of them and you would save enough money to restore funding for B.C. School Sports.
What it all suggests is a government in which a few people are making decisions - on new taxes, or program cuts or climate action - on the fly and in isolation.
Footnote: It’s a bumpy start for new Liberal MLAs. First they’re told, without any opportunity for input, to support a new harmonized tax they opposed in the election campaign. Then they’re called on to defend cuts that hurt parents, children and schools that even the ministers can’t keep straight.


wstander said...

It’s a bumpy start for new Liberal MLAs. First they’re told, without any opportunity for input, to support a new harmonized tax they opposed in the election campaign. Then they’re called on to defend cuts that hurt parents, children and schools that even the ministers can’t keep straight.

The poor dears. But don't worry, I'm sure they'll suck it up and find the courage to defend the cuts. After all, half of them have cabinet posts and the salaries that go with that so it's really a no brainer.

DPL said...

It was weird watching Ida in Question period today, Tuesday. She was sticking to her script no matter what the question was all about.A guy with a policy manual was prompting her as well. Maybe the questions should have been directed to her staffer instead of to her. Gordo actually turned around and looked at her while he was doing his clapping bit. Ida now figures she is safe for a few days. Finding millions of dollars to cut is simple if the person cutting coudn't care less as to how it affects the tax papers. and this cipher, is being paid as a Cabinet Minister? It must be hard to go to work in her ministry as a government employee when working for a dunce like Ida

Anonymous said...

And then there is Carole James... the one who should be really wearing the DUNCE CAP!

The comedy routine continues unabated in Victoria.

seth said...

Add doubling hydro rates over Gordo's term

Its going to hurt much more than the HST.

According to BC Hydro's 2009 annual report between 2008 and 2009, it increased its IPP purchases buying 609 gwh for $63 million or 10 cents a kwh. In the same report, it has owned up to contracting for 14,400 gwh for fiscal 2012 an increase of 6600 gwh over 2008. Projecting the current 10 cents a kwh to 2012 we see Hydro will require a 50% rate increase by 2012 changing it from one of North Americas lowest cost producers to one of its highest cost. That 10 cents is due to increase to 12 after 2012.

Our energy minister with his high school diploma has indicated he will direct the engineers at BCUC to accept BCHydro's additional 3000 gwh buy at 12 cents a kwh adding $360 million to BCHydro's annual cost requiring an additional 40% rate increase by 2013 or so.

Alberta and Saskatchewan are planning on electricity growth using cheap green and clean baseload nuclear at 2 cents a kwh. BC is stuck with this incredibly expensive 12 cent a kwh sometime in the spring some years run of the river power most of which will have to be sold on the spot market at 2 cents a kwh market - a huge loss.

Those who voted for Gordo because they thought there was a lot of people moving to Alberta during the NDP years, just wait for the exodus of all BC Business that use electricity to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington. Alaska and Montana. The only ones left will be Gordo and his group of BCLiberal party hacks with their Pirate Power fortunes and the remaining great unwashed as their servants. BCHydro and the province will be bankrupt.