Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Progress Board gives Liberal decade a middling grade

The Progress Board, set up by Gordon Campbell in 2002 to report on how the government is doing and killed by Christy Clark last year, went out with a bang.
The board’s final report this month compared B.C.’s performance on key indicators with its standing in 2000.
It wasn’t a flattering report card for the Liberal government. The province actually slid backward in its economic ranking over the decade, and remained mired in ninth place for social conditions.
The Progress Board was a noble effort. Campbell set up the independent panel to devise measurable standards that could be used to monitor the province’s progress each year. They looked at ways of assessing B.C.’s performance on the economy, health outcomes, environment and social conditions and prepared special reports on key issues.
And the board set goals. It concluded that B.C. should aim to stay in first place for environmental quality and health outcomes — where it was in 2000 — and to rise to first or second place in the other categories by 2010.
It was an ambitious target, but the Liberals embraced it.
The performance has fallen well short of the lofty goals.
B.C. remains in first place among provinces for health outcomes and environmental measurements. (Which, considering all the criticism of the Liberals’ environmental policies, should hearten them.)
But it was ranked fourth for the strength of its economy in 2000; now it has slid a place to rank fifth.
British Columbians had the third⊇highest personal income in 2000; the province had slipped to fourth place by 2010.
The province ranked fifth for employment in 2000; it had fallen two places to seventh by 2010.
And it remained the second worst jurisdiction in Canada for social conditions. B.C. has the highest proportion of its citizens living in poverty, or at least below StatsCan’s low-income cutoff level. When the Liberals took over, the province was in sixth place.
That doesn’t mean that the economy or employment hadn’t grown, or that there had been no improvement in social conditions. Other provinces have just improved at the same rate, or faster, so B.C. lost ground.
Still, the goal was to rise to first or second place in these categories by 2010. Instead, the economic rankings worsened.
The point of using rankings, rather than absolute measures, was to get some idea how the government and B.C. were doing relative to other provinces.
The goal wasn’t to be an average government, but to manage in a way that produced better results here than in other provinces. That hasn’t happened. In fact, B.C. went backward in some key measures.
It’s unfortunate Clark has killed the Progress Board, replacing it with something called the Jobs and Investment Board. It’s unclear if the new body will continue monitoring performance using the same broad range of publicly available measures. Its focus is narrower, with no obvious interest in health, the environment or social conditions.
The results in its final report certainly don’t paint a glowing picture of a province being managed more competently than any other. There’s nothing wrong with being average, but it’s not much to boast about.
That’s a problem for the Liberals, who have been trying to contrast their record with the “decade of decline” under the NDP in the 1990s.
The New Democrat government of the late 1990s was remarkably inept, with a series of largely empty announcements substituting for any coherent, consistent policy direction.
The Progress Board report, though, confirms that the Liberals haven’t been any great shakes at managing the province either, based on the actual results during their tenure. (Partly, that may confirm that government actions are much less significant than they like to claim.)
Political parties often like to run on their opponents’ records. It’s a lower standard to meet — we might not be good, they say, but the other guys are worse. We’ll be hearing a lot of such talk over the next 16 months.
But the reality is that neither of the main parties can claim any great success. Perhaps that will encourage them to quit living in the past, and talk about what they would do if elected.


Anonymous said...

Oh my you mean the "trickle down" prediction of jobs, jobs, jobs didn't really materialize after the 15% income tax cut for BC's wealthiest???

The trouble with the way things have "averaged" out under the Campbell/Clark Liberals, Paul, is that the many many major losers are cancelled out by the major major gains of those very select few and particular individuals who have actually benefitted. That's not good government.

Raymond Graham

DPL said...

The major media folks in this province seldom report anything that might not be praise of the BC Liberals.

Anonymous said...

BC is dead last of all the western provinces. They all had jobs gains, BC had none. BC still has the highest number of children living in poverty. We have the highest cost of living. Campbell had thieved $778 million from ICBC. Our insurance rates have gone up. Our hydro has gone up, our health care has gone up. Food costs up 30%. Gasoline through the roof. More job losses. The credit card debt in BC will be a looming monster. This on top of the crippling HST, puts BC people and the children into deeper poverty. Typical of the Campbell/Clark BC Liberals. The citizens have to pay for their corruption and thefts.

Harper is forcing the BC people to pay back the $1.6 billion HST, that he and Campbell thieved from the people. We also had to pay Campbell, for the theft and corrupt sale of our BCR.

I and my extended family, are also looking forward to, getting out of Canada. Canada has been named, the ripoff country.