Tuesday February 19, 2008
Can't trust chameleon Campbell
BY BILL TIELEMAN
We intend to be a lean and efficient government.
What the heck has happened to Gordon Campbell?
Last Tuesday the B.C. Liberals delivered less a throne speech than a surprising and abject surrender to big government, with dozens of new initiatives announced.
From the new LiveSmart B.C. to the new Trees For Tomorrow program to the new Citizens' Conservation Council to the new Education Quality Assurance program, Campbell's plan looks like a politically risque TV show called Governments Gone Wild.
In fact, the word "new" is mentioned an amazing 142 times in the speech, while "reduce" or "cut" appear in just 14 spots, and only as in "we will reduce" greenhouse gases, not government!
Today's B.C. budget will not only confirm hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to be spent for the explosion of new government initiatives, but likely also a substantial gasoline tax increase, disguised as a "carbon tax" to save us from global warming.
Welcome to Big Government B.C. - Gordon Campbell, proprietor. Please hold onto your wallets as you enter.
Fortunately, there is a simple explanation for Campbell's seemingly erratic behaviour - he is a political chameleon with positions that change as radically as that camouflaged lizard's colour.
Many believe Campbell is a strong right-winger, committed to cutting taxes and red tape while slashing public services and workers, based on his opposition days and first term as premier.
And the B.C. Liberals did recklessly chop assistance for the poor, the sick and children in care with a vengeance.
Campbell also began a "core review" of government programs in 2001 that he said would ask "penetrating questions to get at the heart of public policy rationale and need." Significant cuts resulted.
But the truth about Campbell is more complicated.
As mayor of Vancouver and chair of the Greater Vancouver Regional District [now Metro Vancouver] Campbell massively expanded local government.
Surprisingly, Mayor Campbell hiked Vancouver's budget 53 per cent between 1986 and 1993, from $324.5 million to $498 million. Total salaries and benefits paid to city employees rocketed up by 59 per cent.
And who paid for it? Why, Vancouver taxpayers of course.
Homeowners' property taxes jumped 67.9 per cent during that period.
At the GVRD, Campbell presided over the three largest budget increases in the district's history.
So as today's budget speech highlights new spending and new taxes, shed a tear for the beleaguered true right-wingers and business leaders who boosted Campbell into office believing he was one of their own.
Just remember that when it comes to the role of government, instead of a moral compass, Campbell merely possesses a political weathervane, and the wind is blowing again.