By John Horgan, leader, B.C. New Democrats
VICTORIA: In these first days of 2015, I hope Premier Christy Clark and her government are thinking about their new year’s resolutions.
I hope they will resolve to strengthen our economy and act on their promises to lead Canada in private sector job creation – promises that, so far, they have broken. And I hope they will resolve to make positive change in the province, rather than continuing to make life harder for British Columbians.
But after a year like 2014, it’s hard to take the B.C. Liberals at their word. In the last 12 months, they showed that they may know what to say, but then they do whatever they want.
Promises don’t get much bigger than the ones the premier made around liquefied natural gas. She insisted that the LNG industry would be a windfall for the province, allowing us to pay off the provincial debt, eliminate the PST, create 100,000 jobs, and enjoy a $1 trillion boost in economic activity.
But in 2014, it was a different story altogether.
In the legislature this fall, those promises disappeared, and the premier stood up for LNG developers, not the owners of this resource: the people of this province. She failed to ensure that the industry will create jobs for British Columbians, and her government’s legislation failed to adequately protect our air, land and water.
Those weren’t the only promises the premier failed to keep in 2014. Throughout the year the premier and her ministers were always willing to say what they thought people want to hear. But when it came to putting those words into action, they failed the people of this province time after time.
In August, when the community of Likely was devastated by the Mount Polley tailings pond failure, the premier travelled there and promised to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with local residents. But she never returned, and her government has done little to get businesses in the area back on their feet, or even tell the public how this disaster could have happened.
Between June and late September, despite claiming they were working to reach a resolution in what became the longest province-wide shutdown of schools in B.C. history, Premier Clark and her government spent months antagonizing teachers, making a settlement impossible, and leaving parents and students to cope with the chaos of school closures.
They also failed to protect post-secondary programs for English language learners. When a funding gap threatened to close these programs, their only solution was a last-minute allowance that post-secondary institutions could charge for these programs, which had previously been free – but the fees will not come close to covering costs, and will result in drastic enrolment decline and the inevitable closure of many of these programs.
Instead of keeping their promises, in 2014 the B.C. Liberals brought in cuts and hikes that made life harder for British Columbians.
Medical Service Premiums and ICBC rates were jacked up again, and hydro ratepayers were walloped with the start of a $477 hike to their bill over the next three years despite the premier telling voters in the last election that there might not be a hydro hike at all.
The spring brought cuts to ferry services and hikes to fares, even after evidence that fare hikes already lost our province $2.3 billion in economic activity between 2003 and 2013.
And throughout 2014, our economy lost as much as $1.5 billion in economic activity as the B.C. Liberals continued to stall on transit investment in the Lower Mainland. The B.C. Liberals forced the mayors to put this needed investment to a referendum, but now they are refusing to step in to campaign for a successful referendum. They seem prepared to leave people in the Lower Mainland waiting for packed buses and stuck in gridlock.
With the new year comes new possibilities to make B.C. better – and new opportunities to keep promises. Unfortunately, the premier and her government have failed to deliver again and again. These days, it’s hard to take them at their word.