Well Mr. Premier, you must be getting excited what with presenting yourself as a poster boy at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference, and then Christmas, and then the Olympics just a few short weeks away. Soon you’ll be welcoming the world to the best place on earth and basking in the glow of the Vancouver-Whistler Winter Games.
So I was wondering what you might be planning to do as the afterglow of these events fades and some of the less than Olympian decisions your government has forced down the throats of the screaming fans that actually live here begin to impact our day-to-day existence. I was thinking of things like the HST (you remember the tax that didn’t cross your collective Liberal minds until a few days after the last provincial election last May) or the increase in BC’s very special MSP payments that are unique to “the best place on Earth.” It appears that almost all other parts of this fine country seem to have figured out how to offer decent medical service without this peculiar version of an additional tax.
About this HST decision that apparently caught you and Mr. Hansen unawares – the truth is if it honestly did not register on your collective radar until a little while after the election, well then I have to wonder if either one of you are really all that good at finances. Add this to your pre-election pronouncement that the provincial deficit would be no more than $495 million - and then we all sat around a couple of months later and watched it balloon to around $2.8 billion - it strikes me that both of you might want to get some help from H&R Block when tax times rolls around!
Now if, as you say, the HST is good for us, then how about we put it to a vote. There really has been no debate, just your pronouncement (and the $1.6 billion from the federal government that helped reduce that surprising deficit down to just $2.8 billion.) Having you and your government just impose this tax without a referendum is actually rather tacky. There is the old adage “no taxation without representation”. Mr. Premier, I’ll wager that if you actually asked the average British Columbian whether or not they are in favour of the HST (or the MSP) you would likely discover that your government does not represent them/us on this matter. And with respect Mr. Premier, that’s the problem with just having an election every four years and then donning the mantle of authority without taking these kinds of decisions to the people who live here and work here and make the money that runs government. In effect, without returning to the people to debate these kinds of topics, and perhaps holding a referendum, we all ultimately struggle with an illusion of democracy rather than participating in an active, energetic and vital version of democracy. (And just so you know, this kind of participatory democracy has been working just fine in Switzerland for around 700 years and they seem to be doing quite well. I also don’t think they have a deficit!!)
And while we’re talking about money, I feel it important to remind you that we haven’t yet heard much more about the salaries of the executives and the Boards of Directors running BC Ferries and Translink. I recall the shock that your ministers and other bureaucrats exhibited when the millions of dollars in salaries were disclosed a few months ago. And speaking of BC Ferries, we were recently blessed with the philosophical musings of one of BC Ferries finest, Mr. Rob Clarke, who apparently suggested that the Islands Trust is the reason that ridership on the local ferry is down and why his fine organization has had to hike its prices so many times in the past few years. It seems that Mr. Clarke believes that the majority of Gabriolans are old, musty and very, very rich and living in million dollar homes and just don’t need to travel on ferries very much and that if it wasn’t for the Trust and our snippy island attitude, we could have high density housing for thousands on Gabriola and the other islands and thus BCF wouldn’t need to raise their fares nearly as often. Perhaps Mr. Clarke hasn’t noticed that the islands are, um, small, compared to other land masses and could not likely sustain a huge increase in population. There’s a line from a Joni Mitchell song that might appeal to Mr. Clarke: “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”.
In conclusion Mr. Premier, it’s been an interesting year. I look forward to continuing our conversation in 2010. There’s so much to chat about!
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