Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Now we find out what the Liberals will really do

After four weeks of official campaigning - and months of unofficial efforts - we're back where we started.
As I write this, with ballots still being counted, the legislature will look much as it did before the election, with a comfortable Liberal majority.
That is a significant achievement for Gordon Campbell, who is only the third B.C. premier to win three consecutive majority terms.
But we're not really back where we started. We allowed the politicians to pull the wool over our eyes and almost down to our ankles.
The biggest issue, especially, was never acknowledged by either of the two main parties.
So now we have a sort-of new government with no real mandate - and thus no base of public support for some very tough decisions ahead.
The Liberals and the NDP both campaigned as if the budget tabled in February was credible. It is not. The deficit, forecast at $495 million, will be substantially over $1 billion.
Just two areas - slower than forecast economic growth and low natural gas prices - means a revenue shortfall of almost $1 billion. The lower GDP, based on the budget documents, will mean $320 million revenue than forecast. The gas prices are far below forecast levels and a $600-million budget shortfall is a likely result.
That's huge, and it should have been at the centre of the campaign. The big issue, for most British Columbians, will be how the government deals with that reality.
The impact is enormous. Finding new revenue to make up the shortfalls - at last in this fiscal year - would be impossible. There is at least the potential for tax increases to address the continuing problems next year and the year after.
And cutting spending to balance the revenue gap would be horrendous. The budget already called for cuts in eight of 19 ministries, just to meet the deficit target of $495 million. A significant chunk of those savings hadn't even been identified at budget time, but cuts to park wardens and campgrounds show the kind of changes that were coming.
Finding another $900 million in cuts - especially if health and education are protected - would mean an eight-per-cent across the board cut in other ministries. (Actually, quite a bit more, since the fiscal year is already well under way.)
Or Campbell could just claim things had changed dramatically since the budget - even though he has denied that up until now - and announce bigger deficits, perhaps lasting more than the forecast two years.
So far, Campbell has insisted that the budget numbers are set. That means deep cuts to services and significant government job cuts.
It's an agenda that will sit well with some Liberals, the ones who really aren't keen on government and would like to see it smaller, even at a considerable cost to services and programs.
But not all Liberal MLAs are going to share that view.
Especially ones who look ahead to their chances of getting re-elected in 2013 if the next two or three years are spent making life more difficult for a lot of people.
Much will depend on what message the Liberals, and Campbell, take from the results.
The Liberal campaign stressed the need for continuity and stability and the risks of an NDP government.
A lurch to the hard right, with major cuts to services, would betray that expectation. The Liberals face a tough challenge to avoid facing their own fudge-it budget accusations when the next budget rolls around.
But alternately, the Liberals have a great chance to work toward a fourth term. A competent, moderate government through a few difficult years will likely continue to have a solid base of support.
The outcome of the 2013 election will be greatly affected by the Liberals'decisions over the next few months.
The party promised stability; Campbell's challenge now is to deliver that at a challenging time.
Footnote: The STV system, sadly, appears to be falling well short of the threshold for approval. British Columbians have lost the chance to reform politics, probably for decades. It is a great blow to chances for a better, more representative system.


Anonymous said...

Time to move. The propaganda machine won handedly. Meanwhile the interior of BC increasingly resembles the gutted out world of Detroit.


BC Mary said...

It's difficult to believe that this election result is really what British Columbia wanted.

It's not as if they aren't aware, by now, of what Gordo has done.

This must be what British Columbians wanted.


Anonymous said...


The premier has said once again stated tonight on Global that the budget numbers are not going to change.

How can he get away with that type of comment when a number of people are begining to state that the numbers are not credible?

I for one recall the days of the "fudget budget" from the NDP. It seems as though we are seeing Campbell do his own fudging of the budget.

I hope that people and the media hold him accountable.

off-the-radar said...

watch for massive cuts to provincial government employees in Victoria under the guise of an aging civil service. Don't worry though, keep reading Canwest, "services will be protected" . . . and privatized.

Gee, that's worked so well with hospital cleaning staff, hospital food, senior care and the massive sell out of our rivers to General Electric and incredible ecosystem destruction.

DPL said...

We get the government we vote for as the old saying goes. Too bad that the numbers who bothered to vote was less than 53 percent.

Whay happens now? well Saint Gordo has morphed from King Gordo and has a free hand to do just what he wants to do. Has he broken any promises yet? What will he be selling this month? How many kids will die in poverty in this rich province? How many single parents will do without , to keep the children at least partially healthy? Let the big circus continue. Does Gordo care about the less advantaged without the ability to support his visions? Of course he doesn't. He reminds me of a fast buck, third rate used car salesman and by God it works for him.

Latest number on the STV No vote was over 60 percent so lets let it die for at least awhile

kootcoot said...

"I hope that people and the media hold him accountable."You are joking or being facetious, right?

kootcoot said...

BTW DPL, it was far LESS than 53% actually, about 48% to be exact - shameful!

Anybody who don't like Gord the Great, maybe should have gone out in the rain to a polling station - for now just suffer in silence!

seth said...

The media either through incompetence or nefarious plan, failed utterly in what should have been the main election issue.

Gordo will over the next couple of years will be doubling our power rates as a result of 100 billion (my guess)or so in IPP purchases at 12 cents a kwh when the spot price remains in the 2 cent a kwh range and everybody else is buying Nukes and southwest desert solar again in the 2 cent range.

The $50 billion in already committed probable IPP loses was never investigated or reported on by somebody with the cred's of Will McMartin. or Wilcox here or even the NDP itself.


tried but nobody would pick up the theme.

Will McMartin had a excellent article utterly destroying the NDP's bad ten years myth.

The NDP should have been shouting back McMartin's stats and the IPP losses every time the Libs brought up their economic creds and the NDP record yet Jerry Scott refused to go there. Gordo has no business experience whatsoever yet the NDP let him get away with that. When he did work for a developer 30 years ago he was their political guy and had nothing to do with the core of the business.

Idiots managed that campaign.

That said Canadians vote on image and Carol James has a oh so nice mom type image that will lose every election every time. Carol Taylor, or Larry Campbell had they been NDP leaders would have wiped the floor with the Gordo.

Finally Liberals 41 NDP 44 That would have been the result if the so called "Greens" had confined themselves to supporting STV and stayed out of this election.

In 8 ridings that the Gordo and his gang won the NDP + green vote was greater than the Liberal.

The first task in rebuilding the left is to eradicate the NOT "Green" party from the Canadian electoral scene, leaving it piled on the dung heap of Canadian politics and left to rot in its own irresponsible puerile rhetoric.