Change in plans for Coquihalla doesn’t signal a new outlook

After all that, I thought victory would be sweeter.  I went to the rallies.  I protested the privatization of the Coquihalla.  Now that the B.C. Liberals have scrapped their plans to sell our highway, I should feel better.

Merritt Herald

   Merritt Herald

I guess it’s the nagging feeling that nothing has really changed.  Just because Premier Campbell has backed off his plans doesn’t mean he has changed his mind.

He might become even more sneaky about privatization.  He still thinks short term gain is worth long term pain. Campbell would sell our resources for the sake of corporate profit.

Once Campbell gets an idea in his head, it’s hard to dislodge it.  He will continue to stubbornly push his plans for privatization of BC Hydro, BC rail, and other Public-Private Partnerships.

“This is a government that seems incapable of change,” said professor Norman Ruff of the University of Victoria.  “They are of a very determined mindset, in that they have a mandate to do whatever they like.”

Campbell might even retaliate against the dissenters from the interior who killed his pet project.  He has said that he will cancel needed highway improvements in the interior.  “This is the premier’s way of punishing residents of the interior who stood up to him,” says Chris Delaney, leader of the Unity Party of B.C.  Kamloops MLA Kevin Kruger doesn’t like that talk. “No one is being punished.  He shouldn’t say things like that.”  Too close to the truth, maybe.

What else are we to think?  After all, Campbell will spend millions of dollars upgrading the highway to Whistler and on rapid transit in the lower mainland  as part of preparations for  the 2010 Olympics.  He says that highway improvements will stimulate the economy and create jobs.

If those economics work in the lower mainland, they should work in the interior.  Or, does Campbell think that we are undeserving of an economic boost?  It looks like a double standard to me.

Perhaps in Campbell’s strange economics, because we in the Interior are a source of wealth, we should not benefit from it.  After all it’s the extraction of resources from the Interior that fuels the economy.  More wealth is generated in the interior, per person, than the lower mainland.

MLA Kevin Kruger says that his government will not “borrow money and leave more debt for future generations.”  He apparently says this with a straight face despite the fact that the Liberals have generated record high level of debt for every man, woman, and child in the province.

The Liberals will borrow more than $1 billion during a  seven- years period to pay for the Olympic Games.  Kruger will claim that somehow it’s not borrowing when it’s done in the lower mainland.   He can’t claim that Games revenue will offset spending since money from ticket sales, TV contracts, and corporate endorsements is years away.

The Games’ improvements could have been paid without borrowing.  All Campbell has to do is recover the $2 billion he lost in government revenue through tax cuts to his rich friends.  But that doesn’t make sense in Campbell’s economics.  In his reasoning, the rich get both a tax break and they benefit from the Games.

The poor are relieved of their burden of rich resources and left with ghost towns, decaying roads, and privatized railways.  All to pay for the lifestyle of the rich and infamous.

The record budget deficit is beginning to make Gordon Campbell sweat.  Under the Liberal’s own legislation, the Balanced Budget and Ministerial Accountability Act, they must balance the budget by 2004/5.  They are prepared to sell anything to avoid breaking their own legislation.

The Accountability Act also explains why the Liberals were prepared to sacrifice local MLAs Kruger and Richmond through the unpopular leasing of the Coquihalla.   The Act forces a 20% reduction in minister’s salaries if they don’t meet budget targets.   The quick sale of the Coquihalla would have balanced the budget for Minister Judith Reid and her Ministry of Transportation.  With the cash infusion, Reid would not receive a pay cut.  The interior MLAs would be mere causalities in the next election if the Coquihalla had been sold.

Campbell’s vision of the province is narrow and parochial.  It’s not just that he is unable to see beyond Hope, but also his stubborn economic tunnel vision is hopeless.