Great Day for Democracy

I am very pleased that BC voters have overturned the HST. The tax, which was implemented without any notice to BCers, was universally hated and had become a beacon of BC Liberal arrogance. In their paternalistic fashion they imposed the tax on us while telling us that it will create jobs and be a ‘revenue neutral’ tax. Most people in the province can do basic math and wondered if they were now paying 7% more for services how on earth could the tax be revenue neutral?

I heard Kevin Falcon on the radio and he was contrite about the results. He actually admitted that they made an error in how they implemented the tax and he felt that the results, in essence, were a slap on the wrist for the BC Liberal Party. He said that it will take 15 months to 2 years to revert back to the PST, GST situation. I am not clear why it would take that long maybe they are hoping to make up some of that 1.6 billion they now have to pay back to the feds.

One of the things that has bothered me throughout this whole campaign and now the results is that the government and the pro-HST business alliances[1] they seem to think voters are stupid. Repeatedly today I kept hearing that tax policy is too complicated for the average voter and that we should not be deciding tax policy by referendum. The BC Liberals showed complete contempt for the voters when they introduced it 3 months after an election. Regardless what the pro-HST forces said the tax was not good for BC. It hit largely services like restaurants and personal care services with an extra 7%. To say that it would not negatively impact families is bogus – almost everyone needs a haircut or wants to eat out now and then. They also never adequately explained how the HST created jobs. They just kept repeating it hoping that repetition is emphasis and we would all just believe it. I still do not know how the HST was supposed to neither create jobs nor, now, kill jobs. The public was not at all stupid – they understood the question.

Now we will have to contend with paying the feds back. Personally, I think the BC Liberal party should have to start fundraising for that but I know it will be us, the lowly taxpayer, who will repay it. The BC Liberals should have put that money aside and not spent it once the opposition to the HST began to heat up. They should have never underestimated Bill Vander Zalm; he has populism down to a science.

The terms of the referendum demand that the sales tax situation in BC be returned to what it was prior to July 1, 2010. I suspect the BC Liberals will introduce changes to increase the reach of the PST as soon as they think they can get away with it. Oh, and wait, what’s that sound? It is the sound of the air being let out of the tires of Christy Clarke’s surprise election call for the fall. She would likely lose.

Ignatieff’s Error

Before the summer, Michael Ignatieff threatened to bring down the government over changes it wanted to EI. He went into negotiations with Harper and came out with a promise of a ‘blue-ribbon’ panel to study the issue over the summer. Citing his great concern for ‘ordinary working Canadians’ Michael Ignatieff seemed relish his role as the champion of unemployed Canadians.

Parliament is now back in session and it seems that Ignatieff has done some ruminating over the summer BBQ scene. He has now decided that he and the Liberals can no longer continue to support the Harper Conservatives. Ignatieff is now threatening to bring down the government over proposed changes to EI that would see benefits flow to some workers for a longer period of time. Instead of trying to ensure that ‘ordinary working Canadias’ receive extended benefits he has decided that he would rather bring down the government.

The NDP have looked at the proposed legislation and has decided to support it. This legislation will pass with the support of the NDP and the BQ. It is doubtful that the NDP would be supporting this legislation just to prevent an election. The NDP would not be blamed for bringing down the government – that would fall on the Liberals. So there are really no political consequences for the NDP if there is another election. The NDP cannot really afford another election right now but I doubt that is why they are supporting the proposed legislation. The NDP is supporting the proposed legislation because it is good for unemployed Canadians.

The Official Opposition is very important to our democracy. Without it governments would run amok. However, oppositions have to be careful that they are not opposing things for the sake of opposing them. Carole James and the BC NDP learned this lesson the hard way when they opposed the Carbon Tax in BC. By opposing the tax and making it a central tenet of their campaign they alienated key supporters of the NDP. They bled a lot of votes to the Greens and allowed the BC Liberals to win again.

Ignatieff seems poised to make the same mistake. If he and the Liberals are really concerned about ‘ordinary working Canadians’ and ensuring that EI benefits are flowing to as many as possible, for as long as possible then they will get off their metaphorical high horse and support the legislation. If they are succesful in triggering an election then we may well be saddled with a majority Conservative government.

Another Four Years of Crap

I cannot believe we are stuck with Gordon Campbell and his band of idiots, criminals and downright heartless jerks for yet another four years. Many of the people in the BC Liberal party seem to have no qualms about breaking laws and continuing to think they have the right to serve the public. John van Dongen is the latest example with his speeding tickets and losing his license. Why should we be surprised? After all the Premier himself was arrested for drunk driving in Hawaii. The bar has been set pretty low it would seem.

What about the NDP? It would seem like people have very long memories in BC and are loathe to elect another NDP government. I think there are other things at work here. Carole James has been an effective leader. She has increased the party’s standing in the legislature from 2 seats to 36 seats in 2 elections. However, for the NDP, under Carole James, winning remains elusive. There are several reasons for this situation. I think Carole James does not have the charisma necessary to win. She is a strong leader but she sounds the same all the time. She stays on message but the message is boring. She does not inspire. She has provided stable, effective leadership to a party that was in complete disarray. The NDP need a new leader – a charasmatic individual who can inspire hope.

Antoher more daunting (and perhaps more serious problem) issue facing the NDP is the Green Party. If you add together the NDP and the Green’s popular vote you hit 50% which would have given the victory to the NDP. The NDP has always had strong environmental policy in their platforms. However, this time, I think Carole James mis-read the strong (perhaps bandwagon) support for environmental issues. Her stance on repealing the carbon tax because she thought it was the wrong tax and that the tax penalized ordinary British Columbians was great for the unions and the middle class but it did not sit well with environmentalists. If we are ever to get out of this mess with the BC Liberals, the NDP are going to have to get the environmentalists back on side.

Voter turnout for this election was a measly 52%. With such daunting issues facing the province like health care, education, the economic situation etc., there is something there that affects everyone. Where are the other 48% who did not bother to vote? There is no doubt that low voter turnout affected the outcome of the election.

I would like to see James replaced as leader of the NDP. I think she has done all that she can to move the party forward and she has done an admirable job. It is now time for someone younger perhaps and more charismatic to take over the leadership. James needs to make the decision sooner rather than later so that someone else has a chance to build support and relationships with key NDP supporters. Most importantly, the NDP needs to figure out how to tap into the environmental movement and siphon some votes away from the Green party who do not stand a chance of forming the government.

There is lots of work to be done. I only hope that those in the NDP realize what they need to do if they ever hope to get out of opposition.

John van Dongen

Our Solicitor General, with responsibility for ICBC and the Motor Vehicle Branch has had his drivers license suspended for excessive speeding. Apparently, the Minister is in a big rush to get to places. I am not going to go on about how inappropriate his driving habits are or that he could have killed someone, even though all of that is true. I could also talk about the lack of morality in the BC Liberal Party (although the same could be said for the NDP). How can we expect more from a political party whose leader has been charged with impaired driving. In fact, Gordon Campbell showed his true colours when he commented that no one could run for political office in this province if they have never had a speeding ticket. Well, Gordon, I have news for you I have never had a speeding ticket in over 20 years of driving. Sadly though I am not available to run for election in your right-wing party.

Instead what I would like to address is the importance of an independent civil service. John van Dongen had responsibility for the Motor Vehicle Branch. In essence, when the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles suspended his license he took away his political boss’s license to drive. This illustrates the importance of having an impartial civil service who work at arm’s length from their political masters.

For those of you who have never been a bureaucrat you likely find decisions made at ICBC, CRA, welfare, MCFD etc to be beyond comprehension. Many times they do not seem to be logical or make common sense. What many people do not understand are the machinations that go on behind the scenes. Politicians make laws. These laws are then translated into policy for civil servants to administer. I would use the example of welfare benefits as I worked there for several years. All of our authority to issue money to clients came from legislation and policy which set out strict eligibility criteria. If someone did not meet these criteria they were not eligible for assistance and I could not issue funds because there was no legal authority to do so. It works the same way in other branches of government.

Now, back to John van Dongen. Even though he is the Cabinet Minister responsible for this area of government he was not above the law. Basically there is a piece of legislation that spells out a consequence for too many excessive speeding tickets in a certain amount of time. The civil service worked well in this case. The officers who pulled him over gave him tickets and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles applied the correct consequences to the situation. Even though our political leaders in this province are of questionable moral fibre, at least the civil service seems to be working.

Phrases I am tired of hearing

The following are making me mental:

1. Global Financial Crisis – seriously, the more they talk about it the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. The ‘wildly successful social networking site Facebook.’ We all know it is there, we all know it is successful now can they please shut about it.
3. The ‘wildly successful social networking site Twitter.’ Again, we all know it is there and it is successful. Just because Ashton Kutcher got a million followers and then mentioned something about mosquito nets does not make him a hero.
4. Still on twitter – for all you newbies on twitter when one posts it is a tweet. You don’t post a twitter.
5. Go Canucks Go. Enough said.
6. Anything to do with the BC Provincial Election. They should all just shut up. Better yet, none of them who have been in power for the last 20 years should be able to run again. We have Raymond Lam posting pictures on himself in his ‘tighty whiteys’ while others are pulling on them and he has to step down. But the Premier of the province can be arrested for drunk driving in another country and still get re-elected. There is something wrong here.

That’s the list for today!