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COMMENTARY · 8th July 2011
Al Lehmann
Ignorance is Strength

It’s well past the end of the Liberals’ “golden decade,” but we really haven’t much to show for it. Perhaps we can do like the dimwitted jock who won a gold medal at the Olympics; he went out and had it bronzed.

Despite a dismal record of lies and broken promises, the Liberal Party of BC somehow imagines we should further support their incompetence. Christy Clark certainly thinks so. So do Pat Bell and Gerry Martin. It’s as if the following never happened or were just strange accidents (no fault of the government) along the way.


a) Despite the stated goal of Making BC the best educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent, BC Liberals have systematically been turning the education system into a shambles, ignoring the needs of special needs children and casually breaking their own legislation with regard to how to manage these problems;

b) Despite promising the best system of support in Canada for seniors, BC Liberals broke their promise to build 5,000 long-term care beds;

c) Despite the statement that they would lead the world in sustainable environmental management, BC Liberals have essentially privatized large areas of our rivers and streams, cut more than a quarter of the budget from the Ministry of the Environment since 2008, and promoted off-shore development of oil and gas and heavy oil tanker traffic;

d) Despite watching citizens live and die on the streets in desperate poverty, BC Liberals spent billions on the Olympics and an $883 million convention center for big business while lowering taxes on the chartered banks;

e) Despite promising not to sell BC Rail, the Liberals turned it over to a private corporation through methods compromised by corruption, leading to a lengthy, expensive, obstructive court case settled through paying millions in taxpayer money, a settlement that effectively quashed the opportunity for evidence disclosure that may have linked members of the government to illegal activity;

f) Despite pretending to be excellent custodians of public resources and managers of public services, BC Liberals have created a health care system so badly screwed up that patients have had to be treated in the Tim Horton’s at Royal Columbian Hospital;

g) Despite promising NOT to bring in a harmonized sales tax, the BC Liberals did so very shortly upon winning the last election; Gordon Campbell finally resigned, but to defend themselves in the upcoming referendum, Christy Clark’s government is allowing third party corporate advertising opposed to scrapping the tax, without demanding that sources of funds for this advertising be identified;

h) Despite promising not to increase gambling in the province, BC Liberals encouraged expansion of gambling in order to increase government revenue by more than 200% over nine years. The list goes on…

Still, Liberal leader and Premier Christy Clark breezed into Terrace last Thursday for an open, town hall type meeting and for later schmoozing with Liberal supporters, no doubt basically proud of the Liberal Party record. A crowd of about a hundred or so gathered in the banquet room of the Hidber Arena to hear their friends’ and neighbours’ questions and how she handled them.

There’s no doubt that she looked sharp—big cheery smile, confident aura (as befits a premier). She, her Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell, and local supporter Gerry Martin did some mutual back slapping to get us under way, break the ice in a “we’re all friends here” fashion, and then explained the protocols of the assembly. Premier Clark would make a few opening remarks and then open the floor for comments and questions.

Ms. Clark opened as if she has been taking US Republican lessons on how to promote family values. Her short homily explained to us that families included mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, and that families could even be chosen support groups that individuals rely on for happiness and sustenance. Needless to say, we were all gripped by and enlightened by such revelations, which no doubt none of us had ever considered before. And we were so happy to learn that she has a family, too. She’s not just a celebrity premier; she’s just like us, too! How gratifying! She did make certain to emphasize, though, that government does not raise children, families do (a rather oblique way of saying that we should not expect too much in the way of government support for children’s services).

The questions raised by audience members were reasonable and pertinent, and we were not surprised to find out that her government is ready and eager to address the problems that were pointed out, at least in public relations terms. And maybe, after a ten-year warm-up such as we’ve had (bronzed, no less), they’re finally ready to do something substantive for people.

Gerald Amos from Kitimaat Village respectfully asked her position on the Enbridge Gateway Project. He pointed out the current communities along the coast that would be threatened (if not simply destroyed) by an oil spill, some facts about current employment dependent on a pristine coastline, and the overwhelming majority opinion among British Columbians that the project is a bad idea. Ms. Clark cheerfully referred to the environmental review process, indicating that she would wait and see the evidence. After all, in a democracy one keeps an open mind, dutifully prepared to accept a whitewashed report as long as it promotes the harmonized “ching” of corporate cash registers.

Unsurprisingly, given the hash the Liberals have made of education over the past ten years, four questioners addressed problems to do with the Liberals’ management of education. A local teacher, also mother of a special needs child, requested that funding of special needs children in schools be improved. Local school trustee Barry Pankhurst explained that under current funding formulae the Board of Trustees is forced to pirate other areas of the budget just to provide the inadequate service that now exists. Many wise nods from Ms. Clark.

Another local teacher raised the issue of the recent BC Supreme Court decision finding to be unconstitutional Liberal government legislation against certain kinds of collective bargaining regarding class size and composition. And the new president of NWCC asserted the importance of education at all levels with regard to pulling people out of poverty and improving citizen performance in all areas, including with regard to employment. For her part, Ms. Clark obligingly expressed confidence in her Education Minister, George Abbott, and without making any kinds of commitments, managed to suggest that all of these issues were being capably addressed, further admitting that she expected the negotiations between the government and the BCTF to be “strenuous.”

One young woman who suffers a disability from a decades old traumatic accident raised the issue of a government’s finally, perhaps, providing special identity cards for persons with disabilities to help them navigate various kinds of obstacles in their lives. Once again, Ms. Clark nodded wisely (she was full of wise, agreeable nods), sharing with us that she had some understanding of such difficulties through her own family experiences.

One gentleman argued that our current forest management is exceptionally wasteful, offering his own vehicle, time, etc, to provide a tour for the forests minister to show him the mess. Mr. Bell explained how we are an economy dependent on exports and that raw log exports are a small part of the mix with respect to our growing export of forest products to Asia. He stated that compared to the total value of our lumber exports, raw log exports are only about 3.5%. But according to the Castlegar News in January, 2011, “What minister Bell doesn’t tell British Columbians is that forest-sector revenue has plunged to just $387 million in 2009-10, from $1.34 billion in 2001. While wood exports to China are up, a much higher proportion is in the form of raw logs — from 1.1 per cent in 2000 to 16.4 per cent in 2010.” Perhaps Mr. Bell’s figure was drawn out of a conveniently leaky memory, just for the occasion.

A petitioner on behalf of the poor wondered when and if the Liberal government would do something about poverty in the province, which has had the dubious distinction of the highest child poverty rate in Canada for the past eight years. Ms. Clark asserted that we really must do something about poverty, but she provided no clues into how it might be addressed other than to remark that poor children are from poor families whose parents need good jobs, another blinding insight. She claimed that BC’s poverty rate would have to change, that when they inherited government in 2001 BC’s poverty rate was tenth in Canada and that the Liberals have raised it from a miserable tenth to nearly ninth. Wow, are we relieved. However, Ms. Clark failed to admit that in 1999-2000 child poverty in BC was already well above the national average, and that “in the current decade, when the national rate continued to decline as the economy continued growing, the BC rate shot up dramatically”, a direct result of her government’s policies. Perhaps the Liberals’ freezing of the minimum wage for ten years had something to do with this poverty. The continued application of their policies led to BC’s being the only province with a higher child poverty rate in 2006 than in 1997, even though federal and provincial child benefits increased over the same period.

We really do need to ask ourselves what planet we’re on. How much superficial spin are we willing to swallow given the appalling performance of the Liberal government over the past decade? The Liberal government has lied, swindled, cheated, broken promises, broken contracts, casually disregarded its own legislation, and dragged us into a huge financial deficit. Why would we believe anything that Christy Clark’s government says? If her performance today is any indicator of what to expect from a future Liberal Party government, we can pretty much count on continuing to develop a society in which, in Orwell’s memorable words, “ignorance is strength.”

Legislated Poverty
Comment by Stacey Tyers on 11th July 2011
This province suffers heavily from legislated poverty. Regressive Taxes, Changes to the Income Assistance act in 2003. The continuous cuts to services provided for the most vulnerable, be it poverty, seniors homes, hospitals, schools etc...

This has been ten years of intentionally growing the gap between upper and middle class. It's been an attempt (well on the way) of removing middle class all together.

I have no problem with people defending their political party of choice, defending their beliefs and principles. Please, do so with facts. The fact is THIS province and it's history of poverty for the last 10 years is DSIGRACEFUL. No matter what walk of life you come from, if you can stand and tell me that a child deserves to go hungry based on a life they were born into, then shame on you.

Lance, your quick jump to 10+ years ago, though not false, the NDP MADE a couple of mistakes, they got tossed out of office for it. The last 10 years as Al has showed, far surpass the fast ferries, bingo gate and the deck. If you want to point fingers please point them in all directions.

I have no problem admitting the NDP made mistakes. However, with those m,istakes reports show time and time again, this province was in a much better position then, even for JOBS. Shocking I kn0w. So Yes, Mistakes were made, they were held accountable and not only did the BC NDP pay the price for those mistakes, we the people are STILL paying the price by having had no option back then to vote in a liberal government who has taken away everything this province once was.

However, we have a choice now, to look with open eyes. Be fair, be reasonable regardless which side of the fence you are on, regardless if you're sitting square on the fence.... this article is based on fact and history and far surpasses the NDPs big that got them ousted. If your only defense is well the NDP did bad stuff 10+ years ago, then you might look at reforming your own party, or pulling the log out of your eye before putting the stick in someone elses.
Not at all Lance.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 10th July 2011
I just thought that since you assumed that this was about hating liberals you might at least contribute something enlightening without the usual vacuous hatred for all things NDP. I don't have to hate liberals to point out flaws in their policy and I don't have to engage in ad hominum attacks to cover the absence of facts in what I post. So I ask again can you contribute something factual and insightful to the issue in the article?
Sorry Helmut
Comment by Lance Armstrong on 9th July 2011
I guess Im just not that good at blowing smoke. Or are you still sore about the province being so dipleased with the NDP that nearly every one (including you) got voted out?
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 9th July 2011
Why not respond to the points raised? Why not disprove the information if you can? Or at least prove we are better off now than we were when the NDP was in. Too hard?
You Sure Hate Those Liberals
Comment by Lance Armstrong on 9th July 2011
I like how this woman cant even nod her head during a conversation without you critisizing her. Dont worry, one day the NDP will get back in and go back to running this province into the ground. Then everyone but the teachers and tour guides can head to Alberta to find work.
Ditto! Well done!
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 9th July 2011
I doubt it is any surprise to know that all politicians when they start at the provincial or federal level get taught certain skills. One of these skills is how to respond to questions. It is never about how to "answer" questions. That would be a natural skill but rather how to respond so the party gets its message across without the politician being embarrassed by the answer. That has to be taught.

In a political open meeting you start by making sure that supplementary questions are not allowed. Relying on the civility of most people you simply establish some rules around one question per person. It is all about controlling the event something done on an open-line radio show.

The techniques used involve stalling, diverting, ignoring and obfuscating. Almost anything goes after you say, "That is a very good question, but here is what I really need to explain...." After that you steer the response to the "message" that has been explained to you and which you have been told to repeat at every opportunity.

It actually works and never takes long before the media will pick up exactly the same phrases you have heard used by one politician or another.

It is never about giving an answer. politicians don't answer questions; statesmen do! That's the difference.

Try google "Why can't politicians answer questions" and you will see just how pervasive this practice is.

Right on !
Comment by Dave on 9th July 2011
I hope this sort of report can be circulated far and wide when she calls the election!