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Fighting a Good Fight, Against the Odds

Vander Zalm and colleagues should be proud of taking the fight against the HST into the public sphere.

Rafe Mair 12 Apr 2010TheTyee.ca

Rafe Mair's column runs every second Monday on The Tyee. Find his previous Tyee columns here and more of his writings on The Common Sense Canadian.

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It will take a 'Herculean effort' to kill this tax.

I say three cheers for Bill Vander Zalm and his fight against the HST! He and his colleagues have a Herculean task before them in trying to get the HST removed, but they have my support. It's said that Vander Zalm ought to retire from the public scene. People who say that sort of thing are mad at the message and want to shoot the messenger.

Bill and I served in Bill Bennett's cabinet for five years, and know each other well. It was not Vander Zalm the minister that caused me any heartburn but Vander Zalm the premier.

Vander Zalm, class act

I was on air during Bill's term as premier and I gave him a hell of a hard time. Those were in the days where the media believed that it was their job to hold governments accountable -- those days, alas, are behind us. In any event, Bill had every reason to hold a grudge of considerable proportions, yet he came to a "roast" for me and was a speaker. Not only was there no bitterness, but he wrote and sang a very amusing version of "On Top Of Old Smoky"; it was the hit of the evening. Whatever you might think of Bill's political career, he's a class act. Instead of being pissed off at what Bill's doing we should be happy that he's back in the arena of public opinion and fighting a battle that needs to be fought. It's also worth remembering that Bill fought, unsuccessfully, against the privatization of BC Rail.

This hideous tax -- which hits the poor much harder than well-off people -- is what makes it fascinating that Mr. Vander Zalm and Chris Delaney, who are leading this fight, are both from the "right." That in itself should make us listen to them and think. 

'Trickle down' a tired notion

The HST, the government alleges, is going to save businesses millions, which will, we're told, be passed onto the consumer. We're supposed to believe that crud!? It reminds me of Charles Wilson, onetime chair of General Motors who, as U.S. defense secretary said, "What's good for General Motors is good for the nation."

The notion that putting money into the hands of the wealthy because it will trickle down to ordinary folks reminds me of what John Kenneth Galbraith said about this "trickle down" notion: "If you feed enough oats to the horse, some will pass through to feed the sparrows."

Anyone who thinks that the chair of a corporation will say. "Thank God for the HST... we will pass our savings on to the public with lower prices and heaven forbid that we might give ourselves fat bonuses," needs to look at some property in Florida I have for sale.

The politics of the Campbell government is strange. The rule of thumb in our political system is twofold: first, do your bad stuff in the early days and pour out the goodies to voters nearer the election, and never do bad things that the electorate won't forget.

What are the baddies that will get dredged up in 2013?

Flawed Liberal logic?

Start with BC Rail, which still lingers and smolders. Campbell's post-election sale of one of the jewels in the provincial crown is a constant reminder of this government's difficulty telling the truth. And this is what will really hurt the Liberals, as falsehoods continue to pile up.

Campbell, in the last election, said the deficit would be $495 million and expects us to believe that suddenly, a few weeks later and to his great surprise, the budget was four times as large!

When asked about the HST during the election, Finance Minister Colin Hansen said it wasn't even on the "radar." Remarkably, a few weeks later, it was announced as done! I've been there, folks, and I can tell you that these things don't happen overnight. I can say with confidence that Hansen's people were talking to the feds months before last May's election.

Is it not abundantly clear that the Campbell government has prevaricated on every aspect of the private water policy?

Here are a few false government statements: that private energy plants leave a tiny environmental footprint; that we need energy because B.C. is a net importer of energy; that it's good policy that BC Hydro pay private corporations double what they can sell it for; that it's good long-term policy to send cheap power to pay off Campbell's pals like Arnold Schwarzenegger and hard up investors like Warren Buffett. And here is the grossest lie of them all -- that we need private energy to meet our provincial needs.

Let's pause here for a moment. Surely we all agree that if we dammed so much as a little mountain stream much less huge projects like Bute Inlet and the Kleena Klini it would only be because we need the power. However, the truth is that private energy will NOT be going to British Columbia because it's generated during the spring run-off when BC Hydro doesn't need the power. Thus the basic argument Campbell makes -- that we need power and private power will provide -- it is utterly false!

Think of the children!

Now there's to be a new casino. Here's what Gordon Campbell said when he was seeking power:

"We don't want an economy based on losers, there will be no further expansion of gambling. We'll try to reduce it."

Kevin Kruger, the minister now responsible, said, "Children may die because of gambling expansion, and their blood will be on the heads of the government that expanded gambling and of the MLAs who voted for it."

Now a casino is a wonderful idea!

When an ordinary person tells untruth, he's called on it. If it was a mistake, we understand. If it was deliberate, we simply won't take his word for anything.

The odds of Bill Vander Zalm and Chris Delaney winning their fight against the HST are very slim, but they have this going for them: they're both honest men who tell the truth.  [Tyee]

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