Premier Dosanjh made a creditable accounting of himself during his pre-election television address last week, but voters may be in no mood to listen. One problem he faces is the veil of gloom that hangs over B.C. voters. It’s a mood that’s as persistent as the rain on the West Coast.
The gloom shows up in poll after poll. Most recently, a CBC national poll showed that 72 per cent of Canadians were either optimistic or neutral about their economic future, and 27 per cent pessimistic. But not in B.C..
“British Columbia, on the other hand, which has been fairly negative and pessimistic for some time, is very, very negative right now. Like 40 per cent of British Columbians believe that we’re heading into a recession”, said pollster Allan Gregg. ” You have very, very different senses of where the economy is going based on where people are right now,” he added.
So, when premier Dosanjh tells us that unemployment is the lowest in 25 years, and we are deficit free, British Columbians don’t want to hear about it. When he says that the economy grew by 3 per cent last year and exports were up 20 per cent, we see storm clouds. When the premier says that we have the highest proportion of parks and protected lands in the continent, it’s downright depressing.
Even the prospect of a Liberal government lead by Gordon Campbell doesn’t seem to cheer British Columbians. Maybe the gloom is more deeply rooted than politics. Perhaps it’s the burden of living in the most beautiful province, with the best climate, in Canada. Every morning when we get up and look at the natural beauty that surrounds us, we then go to the mirror and think, “lord, I feel awful”. It’s the contrast of our perceived circumstances compared with natural beauty.
Opposition leader Gordon Campbell captures our gloomy mood better than Dosanjh. He consistently complains about the government. They never do anything right. I find Campbell’s a cranky tone tiring, but according to polls, it strikes a resonance with a majority of British Columbians. If politics is a culture of gloom, Campbell is an disciple of that school.
Of course, the duty of the opposition is to point out what the government has done wrong, and the Liberals do that well. But the opposition should also be an alternative government, ready to step in to replace the existing government. In this area, the opposition seems lacking. The Liberals complain well, but can they govern?
The problem with Campbell’s negative attitude is that it actually dampens the economy. People don’t feel like spending money when they think that we’re heading down the tubes.
Campbell’s persistent opposition to settling treaties with B.C.’s natives is also damaging. It’s been recently estimated that B.C. loses one billion dollars a year of potential investment as a result of uncertainty over native land rights.
Like new American president Bush, Campbell could be faced with an economy of his own doing. Bush wanted to bring in tax cuts but he first had to convince Americans that the economy was failing. And were they ever convinced: so much so that the American economy is falling at a record rate.
Perhaps that’s Campbell’s motive — if he can convince us how terrible things are, it will be easier to sell his remedial tax cuts. But tax cuts will not stimulate the economy here, or in the United States, any more than when President Reagan tried his “voodoo economics”.
Reagan’s “supply-side” economics were supposed to generate wealth by cutting taxes to the rich who would then invest that money to supply more goods and services. The economy would grow and so would tax revenues. It was a dismal failure. During Reagan’s two terms, the rich didn’t go on a spending spree and tax revenues fell into the red.
Campbell claims that he will cut taxes and maintain health, education, and social programs. It doesn’t make sense to voters and it doesn’t work. Premier Dosanjh made the choice clear in his television address when he said “If dramatic tax cuts come first for you, I am not your man.”
Campbell is poised to win a convincing victory in the upcoming election, so why isn’t he more happy?
Maybe it’s the bitterness of a politician whose party has been beaten twice before and who has been in opposition for seven years, or maybe he knows something that Dosanjh doesn’t — appeal to British Columbian’s gloomy nature and you’ll strike a responsive cord.