Tuesday, January 22, 2008

BC Liberal government's arrogance is its political Achilles Heel

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday January 22, 2008

Arrogance can hurt B.C. Libs


Most of any government's troubles come from trying to uphold the blunders it makes.

- Bob Edwards, publisher, 1919

The B.C. Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell would seem rather secure with the May 2009 election just 16 months away.

A strong economy, a 10-point lead over the New Democratic Party, unity in the ranks and the 2010 winter Olympics on their way - Liberal life looks good.

But Campbell's Liberals have a sizeable Achilles heel that could yet be their downfall - an endless supply of shameless arrogance. Consider these recent examples.

In a province with a shocking 10,500 people homeless and the highest child poverty rate in Canada, Finance Minister Carole Taylor extends the $570 annual homeowner grant to people with houses worth more than $1 million.

The grant was raised to $570 in 2006. Seniors can claim $845 and even owners of homes worth $1.2 million can get a partial grant.

In a January news release, Taylor's crows that increasing the threshold to $1,050,000: "Will ensure the homeowner grant remains as an important support to B.C. families."

The homeless? Well, they need not apply.

Campbell's former deputy minister Ken Dobell is now lobbying the provincial government despite being investigated by a special prosecutor for possible Lobbyists Registration Act violations.

As 24 hours' Sean Holman first reported, Dobell is helping Cubic Transportation Systems, a transit turnstiles company, get a government contract worth tens of millions.

And despite the investigation, Dobell can lobby any official he chooses and has already contacted Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon and the government's public-private-partnerships agency.

Of course, no one would lobby provincial politicians if the B.C. Liberals had not taken over TransLink, the body responsible for all transit in Metro Vancouver, from elected municipal governments.

And the new provincially-appointed, unelected TransLink board of directors announced that all meetings will now be held in secret without the public or media in attendance.

New chair Dale Parker said it is "standard practice" for crown corporations to carry out board meetings in private, even though TransLink is not a crown corporation.

"It's a matter of what can be the most effective process for developing strategic plans and then within it considering the major decisions that have to be made," Parker said.

I guess that's how those responsible for the new Vancouver Convention Centre made such excellent decisions that led to a $388 million cost overrun. And did I mention that Ken Dobell chaired that project's board until last April?

Meanwhile, Campbell personally proved himself no slouch when it comes to arrogance, interfering repeatedly in the independent B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission's work drawing up new electoral districts.

Never underestimate how fast an arrogant government can alienate voters.


Budd Campbell said...

If all this arrogance can hurt, why the Hell hasn't it? It's not a big political science research problem to figure out why the downtown commercial media, CBC included, haven't made a Pacificats-style cause celeb out of the cost overruns on the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.

But how does one explain the blasse reaction of ordinary people, ordinary taxpayers, when you put it to them? I have tried to tell people that the Convention Centre is over budget more than the fast ferries ever were, and there's no response, nothing registers.

I even put it to one our most distinguished pundits, that had the VCEC been built in the late 1990s when Glen Clark wanted to, it would have been finished before the runup in steel prices and construction costs, coming out of China, drove the budget over the top. Nothing. Clark had blotted his copy book on the ferries and David Anderson was right to put the project off till a new government came in. There was no appreciation whatever of the actual reasons for the escalation in construction prices, or the role a public project can play in a softened economy, just the usual BC political rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

I think the real backlash is going to be things like putting Paul Taylor in charge of ICBC. First Paul Taylor uses his monopoly to write a that boneheaded letter last month and now we hear they are going to start putting the screws to added drivers on your policy. I heard Harry Lali on CBC tonight and he is absolutely right; Paul Taylor and ICBC are screwing us. Just wait until the public hears these rip off artists have given themselves another round of bonuses.

We all know that Mr. UseLess as in John Les will do squat about it much like everything else in his Ministry. This is the kind of crap that can bring down a government. That and any truth about another tax grab on gasoline by Campbell and you will soon see why you don’t pour gasoline on a fire.

I don’t think the public gives a rats ass about the Convention Center but mark my words this other stuff will frost everyone. The ironic part is that the Liberals used to make fun of ICBC giving money to everyday people when the NDP was in power and today they would rather have ICBC screw everyday people and give themselves the money. We will see who the final joke will be on.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the Libs look good-when compared to the NDP. I don't want to vote Liberal but the only other choice is NDP. No thanks.I may deplore their arrogance but I'm not STUPID.

As for raising the home owner grant threshold to over a million dollars, many of these home have escalated to that value through no fault, or effort, on behalf of their owners. You have people living on a pension in a million dollar home that they bought in 1962 for 10,000.

Bill Tieleman said...

One point for Anon 9:07 p.m. - seniors who are "house rich and case poor" can take advantage of a very decent tax deferment plan run by the province.

I wrote about this on January 23, 2007 in a column on the homeowner grant - here's an excerpt.

"And don't worry about "house-rich" seniors who allegedly can't pay their property tax bills - the province also underwrites a tax deferment program that allows cash-strapped home owners over 60 years old to put off tax payments till their property is sold or transferred.

Over 11,000 B.C. seniors benefit from this subsidized program, which currently charges a below-market rate of four per cent interest on deferred taxes."

I don't think that if someone has the good fortune of seeing their property value climb from say $100,000 originally to a $1 million they shouldn't be expected to pay tax on that increased value. They or their inheritors still profit immensely from the property but pay those taxes eventually.

And remember - this is a grant and one only given to homeowners, who are better off for the most part than tenants.

Anonymous said...

The Liberal Party of BC, a grossly mis-named neo-conservative collection of Campbell "Yes-Men" is in power because it enjoys the mutual support ($$$) of an equally mis-named "unbiased" and ineffective BC media.

But the NDP's abysmal non-leader and the party's continued failure to connect with the "working & taxpaying" middle class only insure more years of the same.

Until the NDP get a real leader, and policies that represent the real people of BC . . . the Gordon Campbell country-club elite will hold power by default in Victoria.

For BC as a whole this means more neglect and contempt from its government and even more corruption the likes of the BASIGATE Scandal & Cover-up