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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Four   September 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    Lies Don’t Make Economies Work

    Marco Procaccini

    It appears BC’s corporate elite, its Liberal Party hand maidens and apologist media, have come up with a way of addressing the province’s current economic woes: pretend they aren’t there.

    According to Statistics Canada, BC’s jobless rate remains well about the seven per cent mark, with various interior and northern regions hitting into the double digits. These are rates not seen since the 1980s recession.

    This is what it’s been like ever since the BC Liberals took office on a too-good-to-be-true stack of promises—-practically none of which they have kept.

    According to Statistics Canada, BC now has the highest unemployment rate, flat-lined consumer spending, declining consumer savings, declining wage rates, and, according to a recent study by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, declining capital spending, the supposed saviour of the BC Liberals, lower now than at any time during the tenure of the NDP government.

    In fact, the only parts of the provincial economy that seems to be in high gear are construction and real estate, which is also happening across the country, thanks to low interest rates.

    Month after month, the news about the economy is the same. Yet, month after month, the BC Liberals continue to practically invent “good news” messages out of their heads—and the Liberal-dominated Global Canwest media empire, which controls 70 per cent of the province’s print media, including all of the dailies, and three major TV stations, is apparently going right along.

    In the face of continuing economic hardship and stagnation, the BC Liberals put out a press release that actually said, “B.C. Leads Country In Employment Growth, Wage Rate.”

    Shocking. In May, just as this release was issued, Statistics Canada reported the unemployment rate in B.C. kept rising to 7.8 per cent in May, up from 7.7 per cent in April—an overall continued increase since 2002. In the spring, when summer hiring often causes a brief jump in new jobs, it says BC suffered a net loss of over 15,000 jobs.
    Statscan also says while consumer spending, which dropped substantially in 2003, has improved slightly since the beginning of the year, it is minimal and the economy remains overall stagnant. It also reports that overall consumer savings in BC have now dropped to the lowest in the country.

    The release also quoted Labour Minister Graham Bruce claiming, “Nearly one million employees in this province earn $16 or more per hour."

    Astounding. This is about as credible as the Liberals’ so-called “balanced” budget. The $16 an hour wage rate he boasts about has dropped from the average $17.80 an hour reported during the NDP government--that was just behind Alberta, which averaged $18.04 an hour.

    Also, in 2003, BC's personal savings rate as a percentage of disposable income was the worst in the country at negative 8.2 percent. Consumer debt is at an all-time high.

    The charade goes on. Yet another tax-payer-funded government advertizing campaign about the supposed great job it was doing with our beleaguered and under-funded post-secondary education was apparently so full of misinformation and empty promises that the Canadian Federation of Students has demanded they be pulled and the government apologize for once again trying to mislead people.

    The same is true for the Liberals’ ad campaign taking credit for creating parks that were in fact set up by the previous NDP government. The Western Canada Wilderness Committee, a prominent BC ecological group, charged the Liberals, “In one of their most impressive spin-doctoring maneuvers so far.”

    And it doesn’t end with lies and omissions. The Liberal regime, desperate to show something for itself in the next election, is making a series of pre-mature economic development announcements and trying to shove them down peoples’ throats with no apparent plan.

    It has become a pattern of economic incompetence that is leaving a trail of economic and fiscal destruction: the RAV (Richmond Airport Vancouver) rapid transit debacle. While publicly estimated at $1.5 billion to build, industry and transit analysts fear it is more likely at least one billion more than this, with an over-priced operating tab thanks to back-room pay-off deal between the Liberals and the giant Bombardier corporation; the demand to double the Port Mann bridge—again with no transportation plan, no impact study, no environmental assessment. Not even an idea how to fund it.

    The multi-billion-dollar six-lane driveway that dead ends in the small down of Whistler just to service the two-week Olympic event in 2010 is more proof. The private hospital in Abbotsford: over budget, behind schedule, plagued with problems.

    Now the Liberals are toying with the old Site C dam idea in northern BC, not because we need another dam. It’s because the Liberals need to desperately show they are doing something to improve BC’s stagnating economy, as all of their privatization and contracting-out schemes, especially the disastrous and malicious out-sourcing of ferry construction off shore, are taking their toll..

    But lies and empty wild-eyed promises don’t build successful economies. Proper planning, sharing of wealth, risk and decision-making authority are what do. These are basic tenets the Liberals and their Howe Street backers do not understand.

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