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B.C.'s Decade Under NDP Was Anything But 'Lost'

04/27/2017 09:47 EDT | Updated 04/27/2017 09:53 EDT

After 16 years in government, the B.C. Liberals are still using the "Lost Decade" to refer to the NDP's last period of governance in order to scare voters. Was the economy under the NDP in the '90s that bad? People on the street said in the '90s they were able to buy a house, but nowadays even professionals are not able to.

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(Photo: Istockphoto via Getty Images)

Prior to the last provincial election in 2013, the Business Council of British Columbia released a study called "A Decade by Decade Review of British Columbia's Economic Performance." It compared the economic indicators of the three decades governed respectively by the Social Credit Party, the NDP and the B.C. Liberals. The result is that by certain measures the NDP of the '90s actually had the best economic performance.

Here are the conclusions of the study:

GDP growth: The Social Credit decade had an average growth rate of 2.12 per cent, the the Liberals 2.36 per cent and the NDP 2.72 per cent. The NDP decade is the best of the three.

Job creation: Under the Liberals jobs grew by 1.58 per cent, under the Social Credit Party 1.91 per cent and under the NDP by 2.17 per cent. The NDP decade also had better performance.

Unemployment: Social Credit had an average rate of 11.48 per cent, NDP 8.87 per cent and the Liberals 6.63 per cent. The Liberals scored.

Business investment (non-private residential investment): As regards non-private residential investment, the Social Credit growth was 0.81 per cent, NDP got three per cent and the Liberals had 5.53 per cent.

Export: B.C.'s exports remained generally unchanged over the past three decades, fluctuating between 42 and 43 per cent of the GDP. However, the study notes that the NDP's decade in power had the strongest export performance, whereas the Liberals' had the weakest.

The Liberals' so-called "Lost Decade" is contrary to the facts.

For the above five economic indicators, the NDP's governing decade recorded the best performance on three counts: economic growth, job creation and (arguably) exports, whereas the Liberals were better in business investment (non-private residential investment) and unemployment.

The Liberals' so-called "Lost Decade" is contrary to the facts.

During the Liberals' governing years, the debt load increase has been alarming.

When Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell stepped down, I wrote an article "Gordon Campbell's $100-billion debt legacy." The B.C. debt load at that time was $53.4 billion, plus $80.2 billion in contractual obligations.

christy clark power

B.C. Premier Christy Clark. (Photo: Andy Clark/Reuters)

The contractual obligations are mainly from two sources. First, capital projects built under Public-Private-Partnership (P3), where the government signed long-term contracts with private corporations to build a bridge or a hospital. The corporations would borrow the capital, build and manage the project, and the government would pay for the use of it by long-term regular payments. Since the corporations' borrowing cost would be much higher than the conventional government-borrow-and-build method, plus profit sharing by the investors, the P3 model costs a lot more (but it won't be listed as debt).

The second source is the power purchase contracts BC Hydro signed with private power corporations. The power rates of these contracts are generally more expensive than the generation cost of BC Hydro and the prices of the power market. These private contracts are one of the major reasons for our hydro rate increase year after year.

Since government won't go broke and must honour and pay the contracts they signed, the government is responsible for paying these contractual obligations. It may not be called debt, but it amounts to the same thing.

The B.C. Liberals have added $139.9 billion of debt - 10 times more than the NDP.

So what is B.C.'s current debt load?

The answer is, the provincial debt is $66.7 billion, plus an additional $101.1 billion in contractual obligations. That is a total of $167.7 billion!

Veteran provincial political pundit Vaughn Palmer recently wrote an article and pointed out that the province of B.C. has the most signed contractual obligations among all the provinces.

When the Social Credit left office in 1991, the provincial debt was $20 billion. When the NDP stepped down in 2001, they left $1.2 billion surplus and a debt load of $33.8 billion. Thus, the NDP had increased the provincial debt by $13.8 billion, whereas the B.C. Liberals have added $139.9 billion of debt under its governance up to now -- that is, 10 times more than that of the NDP. This is a fact to bear in mind in this election.

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