Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rafe Mair's post mortem on the HST

HST Down, Christy Clark to Follow

Here's why I am hoping the premier calls an election as soon as possible.

By Rafe Mair, 29 Aug 2011,

In spite of every dirty trick in the politician's bag, the HST was voted down.

What will that mean for the early election that Christy Clark promised in May upon winning her seat in Point Grey? The defeat of the HST probably means we'll have to wait instead.

Which is too bad. I hope Premier Clark goes ahead and calls an election at the earliest possible date. This is the rottenest government in my (long) experience, and I have no doubt that voters will agree. Let's find out, the sooner the better.

I voted Yes to do away with the HST, but made it clear that it was for two reasons.

First, I didn't for a moment accept the Clark government would reduce it to 10 per cent in 2014 if they were in office.

Second, and much more importantly, "consumption" taxes hit the less well-off much harder than they do the better-off.

Teaching the Liberals a lesson to me was the wrong motivation. An election will handle that.

But to support yet another tax that favours the well-off was clearly wrong in my judgment.

Sold out by BC's business lobby

I should add that when the business community was so for the HST, that was almost enough in itself to cause me to oppose it. Their reasoning was that money they saved would be passed on to consumers, which was nonsense. What the HST did was reduce the chance that business might have to pay fair taxes, and that wealthier individuals could avoid higher income taxes.

No one likes taxes but if they must happen, let them be graduated, like income tax.

Indeed, the business community has a lot to answer for, as they silently watched the Campbell government precipitously raise the debt, give the environment away to large corporations, privatize our ferries and BC Rail and drive BC Hydro into penury. In fact, they weren't silent at that -- they applauded Gordon Campbell at every turn. A Campbell speech at the Vancouver Board of Trade was guaranteed a prolonged standing ovation.

Christy Clark now leads the BC Liberals, which still apparently have the unwavering support of most business. As I say, I'm eager for the opportunity to vote Clark and her party out of office, first chance.

But hold on, Rafe, do you want the NDP back! How could they possibly be worse?

One long, sorry record

Let's first recall Premier Campbell's visit to the Honolulu slammer for which he paid no political forfeit after being brutally condemnatory of any sin, real or imagined, by the NDP. Unless political morality is now so unfashionable that no one cares any more, Campbell should have done what he demanded the NDP do for far less egregious sins -- resigned and stayed resigned. Not accepting for a moment that he was first amongst equals, he saw himself as first, period.

Let's look at B.C.'s premier assets -- BC Ferries privatized, BC Rail privatized and BC Hydro in technical bankruptcy, on the brink of a crumbling cliff. All because Campbell hated publicly-manned corporations. With Hydro, it is the Chinese torture where Hydro must by the BC Liberals' order buy all the power produced by private companies at a huge loss -- what Dr. John Calvert, author of the exposé Liquid Gold, calls the "buy high, sell low method." All this as part of a ravishing destruction of our rivers.

Let's look at how this "fiscally responsible" government conducted the 2009 election.

In April of that year, finance minister Colin Hansen brought on the budget that the Liberals used in the election that followed, and as their victory celebration died down, announced that, oopsy-doopsy, the real numbers were short by over a billion bucks. Their excuse was that this was because of the 2008 recession! Somehow, the government were the only people on the globe that hadn't heard about the recession.

The fact is that anyone with half a brain, as I do, not only saw the recession coming but bailed out in timely fashion. I can tell you that the Ministry of Finance knew a recession was at hand simply doing their everyday tasks -- looking at government receipts from the sales tax, forestry stumpage and similar barometers. Campbell, Hansen and their team were either hopelessly incompetent or dishonest (one mustn't overlook the possibility of both) if they didn't know of the coming recession in 2007, before it happened, and weren't aware of it nearly a year after it happened.

How did idiots like this ever get elected? Not by any abundance of honesty, that's for sure!

HST prevarications

I've been there and well remember then-finance minister Hugh Curtis, who was both competent and honest, came to cabinet in early 1980, when the province was riding high, and told us we had to tighten up all spending because the signs were there that a recession was close at hand -- it was, and B.C. was much better prepared than other provinces because the minister of finance was doing his job.

In April 2009, minister Hansen had a document by senior ministry officials that warned that a harmonized sales tax was a bad idea. A few weeks later, Hansen and Campbell denied a coming HST, saying it wasn't even on the radar screen then. Once re-elected and safely back in their offices, they announced that there would be an HST after all. Anyone who has been in cabinet -- as I have -- knows that it takes a long time to negotiate a federal-provincial agreement of this sort and that negotiations must have been going on long before the '09 election.

Then there was the Basi-Virk trial, coming out of allegations that these two government advisors had accepted bribes in the BC Rail fiasco. By an amazing coincidence, the Crown "settled" the matter by bribing the crooks on the eve of the appearance in the witness box of the premier and former finance minister Gary Collins.

And on it goes with a government that can neither shoot straight nor tell the truth.

To the polls!

Now Premier Clark says she wants an early election so she can have a "mandate" (I hope it never occurs to her that she won't get it).

Remember when the Campbell Liberals campaigned in 2001 and brought fixed election days and how it was hailed by them as a great victory for democracy?

The author of the Liberal campaign policy was none other than Christy Clark, then deputy premier.

The policy she authored stated that, if elected the Liberals would establish "a... fixed provincial election date under the BC Constitution Act to ensure provincial elections must be held every fourth year or immediately if any government loses a confidence vote in the legislature."

This is what she said in the campaign: "... we're gonna have fixed election dates so that you will know exactly the day that you're gonna be able to hold your government to account."

Gordon Campbell, beating upon his chest, explained, "I think one of the things that is important is that we wanted to say to people, you know, we're not going to play games with you. We're not going to sort of manipulate when the election is. We happen to be popular this month we'll call an election, or unpopular next month so we won't."

What a step forward for the democracy-loving premier, now ex, and deputy premier, now premier!

We should not be surprised, given the political morals shown by this government since it took power.

Let the photo-op call her election, contrary to her pledges, as soon as possible, and let's be rid of her and her trained seals as soon as possible. [Tyee]
Rafe Mair writes a column for The Tyee every second Monday. Read his previous columns here. He also is a founding contributor to The Common Sense Canadian.


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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.