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B.C. Liberals' Costs Deserve Same Scrutiny Afforded NDP

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The biggest obstacle for the B.C. NDP this election seems to be "Ya, they have a lot of good plans but how do they plan on paying for it?" Of course, it is a legitimate question as we should always examine whether or not political promises are attainable. The funny thing is I only really hear this applied to the B.C. NDP.

For example, the NDP announced the renter's rebate, which will work in conjunction with the closure of unfair loopholes to give immediate relief to renters across B.C. who are struggling on the verge of homelessness.

john horgan
B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan. (Photo: B.C. NDP/Flickr)

I heard this announcement on two different media outlets and on both of them it went the same: "Today, John Horgan of the B.C. NDP announced a renter's rebate. But how much is that going to cost us?" There was no discussion on the pros or cons or benefits to struggling citizens -- the discussion was completely focused on the potential cost (which is significantly less than the B.C. Liberals' less progressive homebuyer's grant).

Yet the Liberals and the Greens have made numerous announcements that drew no such questions. Weaver, for example, announced a plan that includes paying stay-at-home parents $500 a month in lieu of child care. Now, can you imagine if Horgan came out with a plan that included paying parents to stay home? People would lose their minds and media would be in an uproar about the cost of such a plan.

Horgan announced plans to freeze hydro rates -- again, something you could assume people would be in favoor of, considering we have endured almost yearly increases to the point where families in B.C. have to choose between heat or food. But again, the reaction was mostly questioning the costs of such a plan, not the benefits.

Our current government can give billions away in tax breaks and we rarely hear a peep from mainstream media or a question of cost analyses.

Perhaps it's because most people don't realize that the B.C. Liberals siphoned over a billion dollars in just the last three years from BC Hydro to put into general revenue, or that the B.C. Liberals -- ironically backed by Andrew Weaver -- sold off our rivers years ago in the IPP deal that has allowed private companies to build generators and sell the power back to BC Hydro at an inflated price, a major contributing factor to Hydro's bleak finances. It also has destroyed rivers and salmon habitats. You never hear the media questioning that decision.

It's a odd phenomenon where our current government can give billions away in tax breaks to corporations and the rich, and use millions of tax dollars to subsidize mine clean ups -- left by companies who donate significantly to the Liberals -- and we rarely hear a peep from mainstream media or a question of cost analyses.

For anyone who has read anything from George Lakoff, in particular "Don't think of an elephant," you may be familiar with a concept of how right-wing political groups have an effective way of convincing people to vote against their best interests -- i.e. voting for a corporate-interest party like the B.C. Liberals when you are a low-income individual.

christy clark
B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark. (Photo: CP)

Given the Liberals' close ties with media -- both through donations and the fact that some former media now work for the Liberals -- and their relationship with the Fraser Institute -- which receives a substantial amount of money from right-wing groups in Canada and the U.S., including none other than the Koch brothers themselves -- it's not hard to see that the B.C. Liberals have had a lot of help pushing their agenda and message.

There's a widespread belief that we can't afford the NDP or that they ruined this province financially in the 1990s, but the article found here actually shows that's just not true. In fact, the B.C. NDP had a consistent growth in GDP and the economy throughout their entire term as a majority government, and they outperformed the Liberals in numerous aspects.

During the 2001 campaign, Gordon Campbell attacked the NDP relentlessly and spent a lot of time and resources pushing this message that the NDP were plunging the province into untold debt. Upon winning, he even declared that "the books are worse than we thought." However, the truth later came out -- through a FOI request -- that Campbell actually inherited a $1.5 billion surplus from the NDP government.

The cost aspect of a promise or platform is a justified question, but only if you hold every party to the same scrutiny.

Unfortunately, that truth has never been as widespread as the myths told during the 2001 campaign, which are still being used 16 years later. During the 2013 election Christy Clark was often caught exaggerating the financial costs of the NDP's platform by 50 per cent, claiming it to be $3 billion, and even took out billboards to push this message. However the platform was actually worth $2 billion and there was a full cost analysis of how they would be able to cover everything. But that didn't matter, the damage was already done.

During the 16 years that the B.C. Liberals have held government, we have seen a decline in services such as public education, health care, legal aid, social services, mental-health services, hospital care, ambulance services, senior care, child care, environmental oversights, park rangers, adult education, student supports and so much more. Yet at the same time our cost of living and fees steadily increase.

Why are we not questioning the cost (both financially and socially) of our current Liberal government's policies? The cost aspect of a promise or platform is a justified question, but only if you hold every party to the same scrutiny.

By allowing the B.C. Liberals to frame everything the NDP says or does about finances, we are allowing this blatant deflection to continue while the Liberals cheer from the sidelines hoping that the spotlight stays away from their current and numerous failings.

So, to the original question, can B.C. afford to vote in an NDP government? My response would be, "Can we afford not to?"

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