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News

BC Election 2013 Reality Check: Liberal Platform

First in a frequent series keeping the campaigners honest.

By Bob Mackin 17 Apr 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Bob Mackin is part of The Tyee's B.C. election 2013 reporting team.

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Christy Clark on campaign trail with BC Liberal Vancouver-Fraserview candidate Suzanne Anton. Source: BC Liberals.

Synopsis: The BC Liberals' "Strong Economy, Secure Tomorrow" platform, subtitled "Debt Free B.C." Lightweight, but with lofty promises and an even bigger focus on the NDP 1990s than the more-recent BC Liberal "Campbell decade" that Premier Christy Clark mentioned once on her Sunday night infomercial.

What: A 90-page document that includes 22 photographs of Clark. It wouldn't be complete without a reminder of the $463 million the NDP "blew on three useless fast ferries." (Alas, no mention of how the BC Place Stadium roof ripped and collapsed and a $75-million repair turned into a $514-million renovation without a published business plan under BC Liberal watch.)

Who: Clark shares second billing to nobody. There are no images of deputy premier and Minister of Almost Everything Rich Coleman. No shots of Finance and Multiculturalism Minister Mike de Jong. Not even Justice Minister Shirley Bond trying to secure tomorrow. So much for Clark's inner-cabinet. None of the new "star" candidates are shown either. (Newspaper tycoon David Black gets special mention on page 15 for his proposed Kitimat Clean oil refinery.) With such a strong focus on the leader, it's puzzling why the BC Christy logo was ditched.

Where: The platform and campaign bus were unveiled at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel, which is in the shadow of the old BC Electric Building, home of BC Hydro long before the days of run of river, smart meters and deferred expenses. In 2001, the Wall Centre was where Campbell celebrated the first of his three majority wins. The NDP was left with just two seats back then. Could the shoe be on the Liberal foot this time?

When: Monday, the day before Clark's visit to Government House for the official election writ dropping.

Why: Another chance for Clark to bash the NDP, which is revealing its "Change for the Better" platform one plank-at-a-time. Sure her plan is 90 pages, but much of it is recycled, repurposed and rehashed from the throne speech and budget, neither of which helped Liberal poll results. The platform dangles the $197-million surplus carrot for 2013-2014 and trots out a reference to ex-BMO chief economist Tim O'Neill's thumbs up for the budget. The paid expert reviewed only revenue projections, not expenses. Like the Pamela Martin-hosted Global BC infomercial the night before, the document is aimed primarily at keeping party faithful motivated to vote on May 14, so as to keep the "socialist hordes" at the gate where the Liberals think they belong.

Need to Know:

The LNG Party: The platform is built on the rosy forecast for Liquefied Natural Gas riches and the triumvirate of Liberal slogans: B.C. Jobs Plan, Families First and so-called Balanced Budget. It says the Liberals "will re-introduce the same budget as was introduced on February 19 by Finance Minister Michael de Jong." Any way you cut it, it still means a debt $6 billion worse than the previous year.

B.C. voters are unlikely to forget 1996, when Glen Clark was NDP premier and the pre-election balanced budget turned into a $235-million post-election deficit. Nor will they get amnesia over 2009, when Campbell's pre-election $495-million election budget turned into a $2.8-billion record deficit afterward. Then there was the HST...

Crush on orange: Orange fact boxes galore with movie ad-style pull quotes attributed to Adrian Dix, Carole James, John Horgan and George Heyman. The month, year and publication are cited; citations of favourable, non-NDP quotes, however, include the precise publication dates. The last time a platform so solidly targeted another leader and his party was on the federal stage in 2011 when the Stephen Harper Conservatives were attacking Liberal Michael Ignatieff. Then came Jack Layton and the NDP from out of nowhere.

Flowers and smiles: Evidently, the BC Liberals ran out of ideas. After the Platform Costing page, there are five pages of full-page photos: dogwoods blooming, Clark wearing silk clothes at a Chinese event, Clark at the Friends of B.C. Reception in Japan, an aboriginal drummer with a Canucks logo on his drum, dancers at the Times of India Film Awards news conference. Alas, there is no photo of Clark in a Canucks jersey, Lions jersey or Whitecaps jersey. Sorry, sports fans.

Spin-o-meter: The future of LNG riches gets seven pages near the front of the book, with the usual trillion and billion hype and "100,000 high paying jobs" that may or may not realistically happen. Gimmicks include a promised referendum on transit funding during November 2014 municipal elections; a new premier-sponsored small business of the year awards; and a request for other provinces to work together on film incentive policies.

Rating: C+ for effort.  [Tyee]

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