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Cost-cutting, right to the phalanx

By G.D. Maxwe The Rt. Hon. Gordon Campbell Premie of all British Columbia Victoria, B.C. Dear Slash: I’m certain you’ll forgive my presumption, using your nickname, but it is that very subject about which I write.

By G.D. Maxwe

The Rt. Hon. Gordon Campbell

Premie of all British Columbia

Victoria, B.C.

Dear Slash:

I’m certain you’ll forgive my presumption, using your nickname, but it is that very subject about which I write.

The buzz around the mouldy halls of the Legislature is that you and the rest of your cabal are even more bereft of ideas about how to pull the province out of its tailspin than usual. I guess that makes sense as we grind toward the midterm doldrums and all the good ideas you came to office with have pretty much been executed… as have the hopes and dreams of so many whiney British Columbians.

And let’s face it, those less generous than I – and don’t kid yourself Gordo, there are a lot of folks in what you’ve come to call the heartland who are way less generous than I am, unless you consider carrying around your picture, albeit glued to a paper practice target, as a sign of endearment – would be quick to point out that you didn’t have many good ideas to run out of to begin with.

I understand a tsunami of new cutbacks is headed our way. More user fees. Fewer services. Longer waits. Guess that’s understandable, what with the Great Revitalization having fizzled like a sparkler tossed carelessly into a punch bowl at a party celebrating a future yet to be seen.

My memory isn’t what it used to be but weren’t we supposed to be running a budget surplus by now? Awash with new businesses drawn to the province like flies to coagulating blood? Jobs and opportunities thick as manna?

Or is that next year? Or next term, you presumptuous rascal you?

Wasn’t the new, Liberal regime of lower taxes, less red tape, fewer pesky regulations nitpicking about trivialities like air and water quality supposed to bootstrap B.C. back to her glory days? What happened?

And more to the point, whaddya gonna do about it?

Oh yeah, I forgot; more cutbacks, fewer services, doing less with less.

Maybe it’s time to revisit your model Gordo. Seems silly to me to stick with something that isn’t working when there are so many other things that won’t work you haven’t tried.

I remember when I used to work at this big bank back east. Like banks do every few years, this one had gone lemming-like over a cliff, pockets stuffed with worthless loans made to big corporations in the U.S., governments in South America, halfassed forays into the Far East and the usual, heavy baggage of mismanagement. Their solution to this recurring dilemma was an innovative combination of cost-cutting, human sacrifice, thinking happy thoughts and hoping the problem would go away. Hey, I bet they hired the same consultants you guys used.

Anyway, bored to tears one day and noodling with one of those new personal computers, I modeled the Ultimate ToughLove Cost-Cutting Scenario™. Stripped of all its polysyllabic consultant-type words, the UTC-CS cut costs like no other bold plan before it. It went after costs like there was no tomorrow, which, come to think of it, was its core premise. In truth, what it amounted to was a lock-the-door-and-turn-off-the-lights plan. In other words, close the bank. Boy, talk about cutting costs!

The model pretty much proved what my gut was telling me – you can’t cost-cut your way out of a mess because after you’ve cut all the costs, all you’re left with is the mess.

Anyway Slash, that ain’t what I wanted to write you about but you better think twice about this cutback thing before the whole province other than Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler winds up with a big CLOSED sign hung on the door.

What I wanted to bend your ear about was one of your earlier cutbacks, one you probably ought to reconsider. I’ll be honest with you, this one’s touching me personally so there’s more than the usual dose of enlightened self interest working here. In my own defense though, I thought it was a really shortsighted, yes, almost stupid, cutback to begin with.

It’s one of those things you aped from Ralphie Klein. Cuttin’ physiotherapy out of MSP, to be specific. Now when Ralphie stopped footin’ the tab for physios, you know what happened? People stopped going to physios and started taking their aches and pains to doctors. Docs cost more than physios and generally are of limited help when physio is what’s needed instead of, say, surgery or drugs. This isn’t a knock at docs but you wouldn’t expect your car mechanic to be able to do much with your broken washing machine, would you?

Not only did cutting physios off the teat drive up costs, it also left people suffering or on surgical lists when they might well have responded to the ministrations of talented hands. Now, I’m probably as callous to the suffering of others as you are but let’s be honest, when people are suffering, they’re less productive. Ahh… a holy word. Got your attention now?

Anyway, I’ve been doing MSP-covered physio to get my reconstructed digit digiting again. I won’t go into how over-equipped and underworked the hospital physio is where I attend but I will say if my personal, private Goddess of Physiotherapy saw as few patients as the hospital seems to handle, I’d assume she was going out of business. And there aren’t enough columns in a year to go into quality of care issues.

But I’m moving back to Whistler and the free ride is over. Truth be told, I’m giddy and overwhelmingly happy to dig into my own pocket to cover Allison’s very reasonable fees. That’s partly because she, unlike the hospital physio, understands the handbone is connected to the armbone instead of the legbone or whatever the other physio thought articulated it. But it’s mostly because I couldn’t stand watching hurt people come into the hospital physio office pleading to be moved up on the wait list when I kind of thought I was wasting their time. They, apparently having never seen a hand injury before, might be able to help those other people with more familiar needs.

If you still covered private physios, those other folks might be back leading productive – holy word again – lives instead of honing their Quasimodo impersonations. And it would probably even save some bucks.

In the meantime, I’ll break into people’s homes and steal their TVs to pay for physio if I have to, which, fortunately I don’t. Mostly it’s because I’d like to have full use of my right hand back but secretly, deep down in my heart Slash, it’s because the next time I wave at you I’d like to have only the one finger raised, not the middle one and the one next to it that won’t bend.