With apologies to Walt Disney: "Who's afraid of the big bad NDP?"
During their decade in office (from 1991 to 2001) I was their constant critic. As I was of Rita Johnston, Bill Vander Zalm and Bill Bennett (after 1981 when I left his government). As a media commentator, holding the government's feet to the fire was my job. No one in the mainstream media does that any more and it's left to this paper and others like it to pick up the slack. Having said that, however, this column was partly inspired by Vaughn Palmer's April 21 column in the Vancouver Sun.
Let me first deal with what I consider the worst and most frequently committed of all political sins -- hypocrisy.
Time to park van Dongen
Solicitor-General John van Dongen has his license suspended. This is the same van Dongen who was fired out of cabinet for warning fish farmers when the inspectors were coming. He pays no forfeit and stays in cabinet even after waiting for a week to tell the premier that he, the top cop in the province, has a massive load of trouble with the cops.
Yet 22-year-old Ray Lam, running for the NDP, has a picture on Facebook of himself clutching at the comely breast of a comely female, which had the Liberals baying for blood, which they got. But who hasn't got, in their mind's eye, that picture of an obviously pissed Gordon Campbell showing him in the Honolulu clink! A picture that was displayed right around the country bringing shame to us all?
I offer no criticism of the behaviour of any of them on the basis of "there but the grace of God, etc.," but surely if Lam had to lose his nomination, van Dongen must be fired and Gordon Campbell ought to have resigned thus saving us all a lot of grief. I guess when the stakes are high and you're the boss, hypocrisy is a legitimate tool.
Gagging on the double standard
On the hypocrisy front, wasn't it Campbell who was both loud and pious in opposition when the NDP brought in a gag law, and then brought one in himself?
The main thrust of the Liberals is that the NDP were, eight years ago, fiscally irresponsible. Here's what my colleague Will McMartin had to say here in The Tyee on Feb. 4 of this year: "To the surprise of nearly every British Columbian, the provincial deficit was eliminated [by the NDP].... Thanks to a sharp spike in revenues (primarily from personal income taxes and energy exports), B.C. recorded a tiny surfeit in 1999/2000, and then a gargantuan $1.4 billion surplus in 2000/01."
From the fiscal and hypocritical point of view, it's interesting to note that Gordon Campbell and his then finance critic, in opposition, wailed like banshees at the last NDP budget for taking too much out of BC Hydro profits, profits which, thanks to Campbell's evil "rivers policy," will never be available to governments again.
(Campbell's rivers policy requires BC Hydro to purchase all new power from private rivers and it now has over $30 BILLION owing and it will be lucky to recover half of that on the market. Annual dividends, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which the government has become used to, will obviously no longer be available.)
BS about BC Rail
I've written here about the appalling environmental record of the Campbell government and will no doubt return to it but for now let's talk about the honesty of this government.
You will remember that in the 1996 campaign, Campbell said he would sell BC Rail and when the avalanche of criticism came, especially from the North, he did a 180 and vowed he would never ever sell it. Indeed, his earlier statement is seen by many as the reason Campbell lost.
On May 13, 2003, British Columbia Premier Campbell announced that the government would sell the operations of the railway (including all of the assets other than the rail right-of-way). While he had specifically promised not to sell the railway, he maintained that he was keeping this promise by retaining ownership of the right-of-way and only leasing the land to the operator. On Nov. 25, 2003, it was announced that the government would accept the CN bid of $1 billion.
Many questions arose. What's the difference between leasing for 990 years and a sale? To put this time in perspective, 990 years ago Ethelred the Unready was King of England! How could a government use a railway for implementing development when they no longer had a railway? Was this sale based upon ideology not rational and careful thinking?
This transaction stinks to high heaven. Other bidders for BC Rail have claimed that they were jiggered out of the process. A criminal case arising out of the sale has exposed many documents which, despite having much of the content blacked out, raise a crescendo of questions that both the attorney general and the premier refuse to answer on the utterly specious ground that the matter is before the courts.
Boondoggles pile up
On the question of fiscal responsibility, Campbell is quick to point to the "fast ferries" scandal, yet is not held accountable for the more than $200 million overrun on the Vancouver Convention Centre. When you add up the convention centre boondoggle, the failed public/private (P3) deal on the Port Mann Bridge, and throw in Olympic overruns, it makes the previous NDP government look like a fiscal paragon by comparison.
(Liberal apologists point out that with the convention we have a usable finished product while that wasn't so with the fast ferries. One might ask, however, given that the fast ferries were an NDP albatross, did the Liberal government try hard, or at all, to get a decent price for them?)
I have never voted NDP and my support of them in this election is because of Campbell's disastrous energy policy. But looking at the other issues fairly, even without environmental issues, how could I bring myself to vote Liberal?
Related Tyee stories:
- Public Safety Minister loses driver's licence over speeding tickets
- Libs' Fibs on Crime Voting
Claims that New Dems opposed police spending are false.
- Pricey Olympics a Wedge Issue
While Campbell touts spin-offs, timber towns feel deprived.