B.C. premier Christy Clark’s baffling campaign strategy is to misinform, mislead and make up stuff
Brian Hutchinson, Apr. 23, 2013, National Post.
VANCOUVER — It’s no secret that Christy Clark’s government has a credibility problem.
the B.C. Liberal party to avoid annihilation on May 14, repairing
damage caused by broken promises and re-establishing trust with the
electorate must be priorities. But it seems they are not. Instead of
treading carefully, taking pains to ensure that whatever she presents
during the election campaign is airtight, verifiable and the plain
honest truth, Ms. Clark continues to misinform, mislead and just make up
The premier spent almost an hour this week speaking with
Vancouver radio talk show host Bill Good. He challenged her on a number
of claims she’s been making on the campaign trail. Ms. Clark refers
repeatedly to her government’s “balanced budget” and its efforts to make
the province “debt free.”
"We have balanced the budget,” Ms.
Clark insisted, once again. Not really. B.C.’s latest budget, like all
government budgets presented at the start of a fiscal year, is just a
document based on assumptions. It’s a “plan,” and a “forecast,” but not,
as the premier tried to suggest, an achievement.
government’s 2013-14 budget forecasts a surplus by the fiscal year’s
end. But the plan has yet to be even implemented; the election
interrupted the legislative process.
The province’s accounts are still
in the red and the accumulated debt continues to grow. According to the
Clark government’s best case scenario, the total debt will increase to
almost $70 billion three years hence and won’t be eliminated for another
Mr. Good reminded Ms. Clark of all this. “Go ask
Moody’s,” the premier fired back. “Moody’s is a debt rating agency that
works all over the world and looks at everybody’s budgets and decides
whether or not those budgets are balanced. They said [the February
budget] was balanced.”
Moody’s Investor Service said no such
thing. In a research report released April 4, the credit rating agency
noted that B.C. has a “plan to reach a balanced operating budget in
2013-14.” It also noted the plan “did not pass before the election.”
Clark didn’t stop there. Moody’s, she insisted, “said they are
concerned if the government changes, that we are going to have a
financial mess again in this province, based on what they saw in the
The credit agency’s April 4 report does not express such a
concern. But it does drop the province’s credit rating outlook from
“stable” to “negative.” This, says Moody’s, “reflects the risks to the
provinces ability to reverse the recent accumulation in debt given a
softened economic outlook, weaker commodity prices and continued expense
Ms. Clark is a seasoned politician. She knows that
voter mistrust is a major issue for her party. She has to be aware that
each time she equivocates, she’ll be caught out. Every statement from
Ms. Clark and other candidates is being seized upon, scrutinized, parsed
to the letter.
Clark will disappoint those who don’t relish four years ahead with a spendthrift NDP government
Media are on hyperbole alert. Voters, too.
Ms. Clark has a script — of course she does — she does not keep to it.
At a campaign event last Thursday, she decided to play up her party’s
conservative-oriented support. She claimed that two well-regarded B.C.
politicians who served in federal cabinet under Prime Minister Stephen
Harper were actively supporting her party’s election campaign. Stockwell
Day and Chuck Strahl are “very actively helping us on the campaign and
I’m really proud of the contribution they’re making,” Ms. Clark said.
But Chuck Strahl is chairman of Canada’s Security Intelligence Review
Committee, the group that oversees Canada’s spy agency, CSIS. As
Canada’s chief spy watchdog, a position he has held since May 2012, he
is expressly forbidden from playing politics. He cannot make so much as a
partisan comment or he’ll damage his own credibility and that of the
committee he heads. No one knows this better than Mr. Strahl.
that he is assisting the B.C. Liberals in the current election campaign
was unhelpful: To Ms. Clark, to her party and to Mr. Strahl, who had no
choice but come out later and deny it.
Most won’t admit it, but
B.C. Liberals despair of Ms. Clark. She’ll also disappoint others who
don’t relish four years ahead with a spendthrift NDP government. The
NDP’s policy platform is being released bit by bit over the provincial
campaign, now in its second week. To date, the party has offered in bits
and pieces a classic tax-and-spend policy, with deficit and debt relief
taking a back seat. It’s anathema to a huge portion of B.C. voters.
Liberals have properly seized upon the NDP plan. They have identified
and have begun to exploit the most obvious, ideological differences
between the B.C. Liberals and their rivals. But Ms. Clark’s off-kilter
musings undermine these efforts and they baffle. It’s their frequency
that no longer causes surprise.
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