Okay everyone, I take a short break from this column, leave you alone with the province for just a few weeks and what do you do while I’m not looking? You let the pre-election silly season start without me is what you do.
It’s that special time of the year when MLAs, who have ignored us for four years, try to buy their way back into our hearts and minds with broad smiles and big promises.
First off the mark was Terry Lake with his breathless announcement that the BC Liberals would be spending nearly $500 million dollars to expand Royal Inland Hospital. A Terry Lake legacy moment if you will.
Like you, I think the proposed new tower is needed and will be even better if there’s money to staff it. However, the cynical me notes how it won’t even begin to happen until one year after the coming election. Pretty much standard operating procedure for these types of announcement and it leaves the door wide open for recycling the promise over several more elections.
Next up to bat was Todd Stone with the mandatory pre-election favourite: an announcement of improvements to the Trans Canada Highway. The fine art of election-time road improvement announcements was honed to perfection under the tutelage of the late Premier W.A.C. Bennett and then Transportation Minister, Phil Gaglardi. Minister Stone keeps the tradition alive as he suddenly finds nearly half a billion dollars for new blacktop.
Both announcements came with great fanfare, liberal back patting and the suggestion that we were pretty damn lucky to be on the receiving end of their largesse. It’s the old Social Credit trick of bribing us with our own money and oddly enough, we fall for it every time.
Next up was Premier Clark with her overused promise of jobs, jobs, jobs. Unfortunately for Ms. Clark, the CIBC Economist released a report last month confirming that BC is the worst place to look for quality employment and the situation is worsening. We are trendsetters, though, in the growth of below-average wage work.
Then there was the funny, if it weren’t so sad story about the $1 million funding to support the Iron Horse Youth Safe House in Maple Ridge. The grand announcement by Maple Ridge MLAs lost a bit of its sheen when they discovered (post announcement) the facility had been closed for the past two years due to — are you ready for it — a lack of funding.
And speaking of recurring foot in mouth syndrome, Minister Rich Coleman managed to demonstrate his sensitivity toward those less fortunate than he when he proclaimed, “We have to remember that a single person living on social assistance in BC gets double the annual income of a person in the third world.”
Nice to see we are just one step ahead of third world countries when it comes to social responsibility. I wonder if he’s figured out why many view politicians as elitist, insensitive and self-serving?
I haven’t even touched upon the recent budget, but it does look like everyone has been working hard at selling that balanced budget concept. Well, almost everyone, as it would seem the Auditor General has a few questions and concerns about what I call, Black Magic Accounting.
One example he refers to is the government’s use of deferral accounts to hide liabilities and pass them along to future generations. In his report, the Auditor General states, “But over time, government has now inappropriately deferred a total of $4.2 billion.”
Yes, silly season is well underway and I’m glad to be back behind the keyboard — sceptical as ever and not ready to drink the press release Kool-Aid but looking forward to hearing your views and comments.