So Mr. Premier, this harmonized sales tax thing appears to have not been well received by the citizens of BC. Seems there’s some difficulty in accepting that it’s a good idea and a bit of cynicism about the statement that this hadn’t crossed your collective minds until the election was over. Perhaps that’s what happens when instead of actually having a discussion with those of us who pay your salaries, you and your economic Minister simply make an Olympian pronouncement that this has been deeply pondered and thus it is now decreed. Apparently the whole gig with the gods of Olympus and the regular humans hasn’t translated well into the current political reality. This Olympic thing does really appear to have captured your imagination!
I must admit I also am experiencing some confusion around the theory that paying more for something will actually cost me less money. I’m still stuck on your previous premise that the carbon tax will be revenue neutral. (It just cost me an additional ten bucks on my recent fuel bill and the HST would add another 7%.) Did you know that the CD Howe Institute did a quick analysis on the impact of the HST and concluded that the tax would generate another $4 billion for the province over three years. Not exactly revenue neutral unless you were planning on giving us back $4 billion. I’m guessing that would be more than the $100 we all got last year to compensate for the revenue neutral carbon tax. This kind of thinking does seem to be peculiar to BC. For example, I believe BC Ferries has decided that starting next year they would start charging $2 for bicycles on the Quinsam, not because they need it, but to bring the Gabriola ferry charges in line with all other ferries. They are also planning to refund the $2 at the same time (to those of us who use the Experience card), because…um, because… Ah the delights of the bureaucratic mind! One of the deepest, darkest human mysteries that remains unsolved.
Now perhaps there are some brilliant economic minds that can appreciate the apparent logical conflicts in these two situations, but then again, I seem to recollect that it was brilliant economic minds that sort of got us into the current economic mess. You may recall that it was Einstein who said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” But then again, he wasn’t a politician – or an economist!
It appears that there are a few other challenges facing your government recently. The BC Rail problem just seems to be tenaciously hanging on. Hopefully those emails that apparently disappeared during the election will be found. Five years seems to be a long time to wait for a trial for those charged and for the details of the sale of BC Rail to become public. I’m still confused how the whole thing happened as you stated unequivocally during the 2001 election that, if elected, you would not sell BC Rail.
Then there’s the issue of the deficit that is apparently going to be a bit bigger than guaranteed during the election. You were quoted as saying during the election “I can tell you this: that the deficit for 2009-10 will be $495 million maximum.” As your government has 90 days from appointing a new cabinet to introduce a new budget, the details of the deficit will not be available to the public until September. Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist for the Bank of Montreal said that he could easily see a deficit of the magnitude of $2 billion dollars. Could be an interesting few weeks.
Well Mr. Premier, the Winter Olympics are only a few months away. They should take some of the focus away from your government’s problems and ignite a torch of provincial and national pride. I understand that Olympic security officials have disclosed their plans to create a few “free speech areas” along the lines of the protest zones that were established during the Beijing games. Of course, as Bud Mercer, the head of Security for the 2010 Olympics has admitted “anywhere you participate in lawful protest is legal and lawful in Canada. It doesn’t have to be in a free speech area.” Now why does this kind of thinking remind me of the same logic that wants to charge and refund $2 for bicycles and that claims that new taxes are revenue neutral?
Well Mr. Premier, I am looking forward to the fall sitting of the legislature. Should be some interesting questions and, I anticipate, some intriguing, creative new political dance steps.
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