Things have been changing in B.C. since the election, for the worse.
The cuts in services and community supports and the tax breaks for businesses represent a big shift in the kind of province we're handing on to our children.
These aren't just the usual post-election initiatives, but changes that reflect a dramatic change in values.
The recession would inevitably have forced some changes on any government. But increasingly, it looks like what's really underway is a search and destroy mission aimed at programs and services that had been considered important.
These programs had all survived the Liberals' first term core review to strip government down to its essential roles.
The cuts are brutal and poorly thought out. Solicitor General Kash Heed said he didn't know that cutting $440,000 from frontline support for victims of domestic violence would be a problem. Premier Gordon Campbell didn't understand gaming grant cuts reneged on three-year commitments to charities. Both were reversed as a result of public pressure.
Hundreds of others are going ahead. Less help for autistic children, halving of support for school parent advisory committees, longer waits for health care, no repairs to leaky schools, cuts to kids sports, reduced treatment for drug addicts. The list is long.
And the loss is likely permanent. Grants to parent advisory councils can be restored before the next election, of course. But if a treatment centre has closed because funding was cut, then the resource is lost.
This goes beyond a trimming of programs. The Liberals seem to be making a structural and cultural change. The people hurt by the cuts have overwhelmingly been the already disadvantaged - children with disabilities or struggling schools or people who couldn't afford private health care. Local seniors' drop-in centres or libraries.
Cumulatively, the cuts change who we are. Over decades, British Columbians have come to set out a collective role in helping people who needed it, and the limits of that support.
Now, we have decided we will do much less. Those affected will have to accept their diminished lives.
That's a choice a society can make.
But British Columbians didn't get a chance to make that choice. Gordon Campbell ran his spring election campaign on the promise that big cuts weren't needed in B.C.
And then proceeded to make them.
These aren't temporary cuts during a recession. In fact, they are just the beginning.
Non-health spending, after a small increase this year, is to be cut in each of the next two years. This funding isn't going to be restored. (Health spending rises by about six per cent annually in the current three-year plan.)
At the same time, the government is shifting the burden of paying for the remaining services from large businesses to individual taxpayers.
The harmonized sales tax, according to Campbell, will reduce the taxes paid by businesses by $1.9 billion a year. It will also be revenue neutral, he said. The government won't be out any money.
Which means individuals will see their taxes increase to cover that shift. (Some businesses will pay more too, like restaurants. The Finance Ministry has been unable to provide any numbers on the share of the burden between the unlucky businesses and individuals.)
Again, society can make a choice to tax business less and individual families more. Lower business taxes can attract investment. Jobs are created, competition for employees raises wages and most people get enough money to pay the higher taxes, plus a bit. (Probably not the most disadvantaged, who depended on those services.)
But again, the Liberals didn't campaign on the need to reduce the tax burden on big business by raising it on everyone else. In fact, they specifically ruled out the HST.
Big, lasting changes are underway in B.C. And the people have never had a chance to say whether they approve.
Footnote: The Liberals have faltered in explaining or defending the cuts in the legislature and their support has plummeted since the election, according to the polls. The impact of the cuts and the HST, which takes effect July 1, will continue past the midpoint of the Campbell government's term.