Pique n' Your Interest 

Prepare to be politicked

The Liberal Party is just weeks away from calling the next provincial election, scheduled to take place on May 17.

Although it’s doubtful that Premier Gordon Campbell’s government will hold onto its legislative empire (all but two seats in the last election, until a byelection gave the NDP a third), it’s fair to assume that they will at least come away with another comfortable majority.

When they were first elected they had three major goals – cutting government waste, balancing the budget, and cutting red tape to encourage more investment in the province. Some lip service was paid to other issues, but from the beginning it was clear that this government is driven by economic zeal. From day one they proclaimed that B.C. was open for business.

You have to hand it to them there. They have balanced the budget and improved the province’s credit rating. Economic growth and employment figures are among the strongest in Canada. They are also making payments on B.C.’s $37 billion debt.

Some of the money they’ve saved has also been channelled back into areas like education, post-secondary education and health care, although you could also argue that they’ve made some drastic cuts in those areas as well.

While I can’t argue against fiscal stability – paying out more than you bring in is madness, whether you’re a ski bum like me or a provincial government – but their approach has been harsh at times.

For example, this government has privatized B.C. Hydro’s and the Medical Services Plan’s billing operations, bringing in U.S. companies to replace government workers. They also attempted to privatize liquor distribution, a cash cow for the province, and environmentalists believe Liberal policies like the proposed Working Forest Legislation and lodges in provincial parks amount to the privatization of public land. There is also widespread concern that ICBC will disappear as motor vehicle insurance becomes privatized.

Hospitals have been closed and provincial ministries have been under such pressure to save money that key staff members have been laid off. For example, the number of park rangers, conservation officers and forestry field workers in the province is at an all-time low, making it harder to protect and maintain those resources. Witness the resurgence in poaching of bald eagles for their beaks and talons.

At the same time as they’ve been tightening belts, the province has also given B.C. residents tax breaks, while doing the politically popular thing by getting rid of photo radar – a proven system for raising money and increasing road safety.

The government is also taking credit for the money raised by oil and gas exploration in the province and pushing to allow off-shore drilling, at a time when the public is split over the issue.

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