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Fiscal management slightly better under NDP: study

A study released May 9 by Tsur Somerville, a well-known scholar at the UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, comes to the conclusion that "relative fiscal management moderately better under the NDP than the BC Liberals."

That finding will probably come as a surprise to many British Columbians. The study casts doubt on a narrative commonly heard across the province and central to the BC Liberal campaign.

Portraying Liberals as competent managers who can save the province from fiscal ruin under a profligate NDP, Christy Clark has campaigned hard on claims of superior management skills, debt reduction and job creation, even adorning the web page for her campaign, Strong Economy, Secure Tomorrow with an unflattering picture of her NDP opponent and the headline "Weak Leadership, Weak Economy."

But Somerville's findings present a different picture.

Comparing average fiscal achievement numbers for the NDP governments in power in B.C. during the 1990s (under Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh) with those for the Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark Liberals in power during the last decade, Somerville finds that the NDP record for fiscal management is "moderately better;" that aggregate employment growth under both parties was "relatively similar;" that the NDP record on limiting the size of the provincial debt was better; and, that the fiscal balance was more positive under the NDP.

(All of these assessments, Somerville emphasizes, are based on comparing B.C.'s performance with other provinces during the same periods.)

Bruce Ralston, the NDP candidate in Surrey Whalley and finance critic during the last sitting of the legislature, told The Tyee he was not surprised by Somerville's findings.

"By their own measure," he said, "the Christy Clark Liberals are a complete failure. Their claims about jobs are false and they have run five deficits."

No one from the Liberal party made themselves available to comment on this story, despite repeated emails and phone calls from The Tyee.

The UBC study does give the BC Liberals credit for growing real median income in the province more than the NDP. And it does note that the high performance of the Harcourt government, which did better than other NDP governments on the measures considered, brings up the NDP average.

"I was surprised," Somerville told 24 Hours Vancouver.

"I hadn't expected to see sort of this stark difference between the Harcourt years and everybody else."

On May 10, Harcourt, effectively the hero of the Somerville study, issued a ringing endorsement, urging voters to support Adrian Dix and the NDP

"It's a choice between scandal, mismanagement and misleading. Or a prosperous economy, a healthy environment, and a caring society," the ex-premier stated in a press release.

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy beats for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at [email protected].

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