Thursday, February 11, 2010

Liberals drifting away from concerns of British Columbians

I figured out why the throne speech worked so badly. It wasn't enough like a magazine cover.

Magazine editors know you have to grab readers with something that promises to make their lives better.

That's why the covers offer "Six ways to cut your grocery bill" or "Five tips to help you child get better grades" or "Four sure paths to business success."

The throne speech didn't tell British Columbians how the government proposed to make their lives better, except in the most abstract ways.

Streamlining the approval process for mines is a worthwhile goal, and could create jobs. But the speech never expressed those benefits clearly. There was no list of "Six ways we're helping you have a chance at a better job."

And what are people to make of a passage like "new emphasis will be placed on parental involvement and on tailoring our education system to each child's individual needs, interests and passions."

It sounds vaguely positive. But it doesn't say anything. There's no chance a parent can hear that and believe the government actually is doing anything to make life better for their child.

Some sections came closer, like the commitment to introduce preschools over the next five years.

But they were so vague it was hard to know if they would actually meet families' needs.

It's not a question of bad writing or a throne speech crafted by committee.

It's a symptom that the government has actually lost sight of the fact that its reason for existence is to make the lives of British Columbians, now and in the future, better.

And that it needs to be able to draw a direct link between whatever it does and the results for us.

Plans for a "comprehensive strategy to put B.C. at the forefront of clean energy development" are fine - if they benefit British Columbians.

There will be some jobs, certainly, and some companies will do well. But if the strategies just mean higher electricity costs for most of us, why is this a government priority?

The problem was on display the day after the throne speech, in the first question period of this session.

Citizens' Services Minister Ben Stewart was asked about a privacy breach that left confidential files on more than 1,400 British Columbians in the hands of an employee convicted of fraud. The people weren't told for seven months they were at risk. Reviews the government failed to protect their information and failed to respond to the breach.

NDP MLA Shane Simpson asked Stewart to apologize to those 1,400 people for the failures that put them at risk of identity theft.

Stewart wouldn't. Surely saying sorry to citizens you have failed is simply recognizing that they are your first concern.

Even more striking was Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid's response to questions about the deep cuts school districts are making.

She noted that funding to districts rose by 1.9 per cent this year, in spite of a declining enrolment. And she pointed to the coming full-day kindergarten and the expansion of StrongStart centres for preschoolers.

But mostly, MacDiarmid talked about how much the government was spending - not about whether children were getting better educations. Why not say districts are being asked to cut to help keep the deficit down and explain why the government believes it's necessary and possible?

The ministry's budget for the fiscal year that starts April 1 is slated to increase by less than one per cent. School districts have to provide a provincially negotiated teachers' pay increase of at least two per cent. Something has to give.

Why not acknowledge that and explain the main things being done to ensure students' educations aren't being compromised?

An Angus Reid poll last April found less than one-third of British Columbians thought Premier Gordon Campbell understood the problems of people living in the province.

The government isn't doing much to change the minds of all those who think the Liberals are unconcerned with their futures.

Footnote: The throne speech made an effort to sell the harmonized sales tax, but stumbled. In the election campaign 10 months ago, the Liberals said the tax would be bad for British Columbians; the speech said "nothing is more important" for the province's economic future than the tax. The flip-flop is too glaring for people to miss.


Anonymous said...

Paul, do some of the liberal politicians ever contact you and say "geez, when you put it that way, I don't know how we have so lost our connection to the general population. Maybe there is some intoxicating drug being piped into the air vents here. Thanks for putting it in plain language and helping me see how BCers see us." Sadly, what you write, seems so true and those in power are willfully blind.

Anonymous said...

But Paul, what about the Olympics? Where's your BC spirit?

Canadian Canary said...

Really Paul? You think Gordon Campbell & Company "has actually lost sight of the fact that its reason for existence is to make the lives of British Columbians, now and in the future, better." ?!?

I'm stunned that you thought they ever held that view.

Sean Holman provides an example of how contemptuous they are in a column in this week's Monday Magazine. He "outs" Mary Polak as being a liar when she insisted, over and over, that she met with the Children's Advocate whenever asked, and that she was "perplexed – perplexed!" when Ms. Turpel-Lafond complained otherwise. Courtesy of an FOI request, Sean Holman discovered that there was only one meeting (held last October) and it took many requests over several month to make it happen.

More than the rampant deceit, I'm disturbed by Ms. Polak's attack on the integrity of an officer of public protection. And saddened, but no longer surprised, at the lack of public outcry.

So, I'm astonished that you think the Campbell government's HST "flip-flop is too glaring for people to miss." Really, Paul, really??

Most of the people are easily distracted by the Olympics and any other "stardust" the Mr. Campbell has the Public Affairs Bureau cook up and serve hot to the salivating media.

Deceit is the hallmark of Gordon Campbell's government.

Their strategies, throne speech and otherwise, are comprised of Grand Slogans. Slogans that they drop like a spent cigarette when they've achieved whatever else they were wanting to do behind our backs. These Grand Slogans are designed to be vague, so that they can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and therefore make it harder to pin them down and hold them to account.

Occasionally, when the "optics" look bad, they make a big show of contrition, but it's not coming from their soul, it's a calculated maneuver.

You know what they say - you've got it made when you can fake sincerity. Why anyone in BC would would believe a single word that Mr. Campbell utters boggles my mind.

Brian said...

Paul, I agree with you that the raison d'etre for the government is to "make the lives of British Columbians, now and in the future, better".

But I fear that the present government's agenda is actually to make the lives of some British Columbians, right now, richer.

Catch-phrases like "the creative economy will shape our future" give the lie to actions like cutting arts and culture spending, already nearly the lowest of any province, to almost nothing.

Instead of making a bigger pie, they seem to have decided that it's better to sell off the pie they have now, with a few crumbs swept off the table for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

“better” of course has different definitions depending on who is asked the question. In the case of NDPaul the answer is always the same.

DPL said...

The Liberals didn't drift, they never had any concern for the average folk. If it's a social program, cut it, if it's schools, cut them and if a person needed help for any number of conditions, well don't ever expect Gordo's crew to come to their aid. Go check ooout reasides' drift on Gordo's main concerns right now. It's all about the big circus where any amount wanted gets shovelled over to that event.

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