Leaders’ spin contest ends in tie

No advantage to either political leader in UBCM face-off.

VICTORIA – The Union of B.C. Municipalities convention is the political event of the year for B.C. party leaders, especially heading into a provincial election.

Up first was NDP leader Adrian Dix, who drew a large crowd of local politicians last week for the traditional early-morning spot that follows a long evening of receptions.

In contrast to his debut last year, a typical litany of political attacks on the B.C. Liberals, Dix declared he would take the high road. And perhaps mindful of Carole James’ downfall after her content-free speech to the 2010 UBCM convention, Dix set out policies.

He told delegates an NDP government would restore local authority over Metro Vancouver transit (no more toothless “mayor’s council”) and mountain resorts (no more Jumbo ski resort permits issued over local objections).

Dix would also let communities decide if they want public-private partnerships for large construction projects. (Federal Heritage Minister James Moore later noted that if communities or provinces wish to decline federal funds due to this ideology, they are free to do so.)

Then Dix accused the B.C. Liberals of cutting forest inventory spending by 77 per cent over the last decade, meaning decisions like rebuilding the Burns Lake mill are being made “in the dark” for the first time in a century.

That’s a damning charge, so I checked it against forest ministry budget records. As with all government programs, accounting changes can give a misleading appearance of large cuts or increases from year to year. And indeed forest inventory spending has bounced around during the B.C. Liberal term.

The budget for forest inventory staffing and operation was about $8 million in 2001-02, rising as high as $15 million and falling to a low of $5.1 million in recession-hit 2009-10. The estimate for the current fiscal year is $9.7 million, an increase to try to catch up with the pine beetle disaster.

Crown forest inventory has indeed fallen behind due to rapid shifts caused by unprecedented insect and fire damage. But has spending been slashed as Dix claims? No. It has increased.

Next up was Premier Christy Clark, in full campaign mode. In the Gordon Campbell tradition, she brought the goodies out in her speech to close the convention. More than $200 million has been scraped together to “accelerate” capital projects at schools, hospitals and other facilities across the province.

These projects were already on the books, but they’ve been moved up for obvious political purposes. Or at least the announcements will be moved up.

Four-laning of the last narrow stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway east of Kamloops will continue over 10 years. This is a federal-provincial project that will eventually be finished regardless of who is governing in Victoria or Ottawa. It includes some of the most staggeringly expensive road building in Canada, in the Kicking Horse Pass, a short section that could require two tunnels and up to 12 more bridges.

Clark also announced a long-range plan to replace the George Massey tunnel under the Fraser River. It will likely be a bridge, because the tunnel is a bottleneck not only for Highway 99, but also for large ships going up-river. This is another project that will proceed eventually, and there is no specific financial commitment yet.

I haven’t found any outright false claims in Clark’s presentation, just the kind of creative accounting and blacktop politics familiar to B.C. voters. As always, I’m pleased to hear from people with specific corrections.

For now, call it a tie. Neither speech represents a proud moment for our provincial leadership.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter for Black Press. tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

Just Posted

2019 FEDERAL ELECTION: North Island-Powell River candidates discuss marine traffic and ocean protection

In an effort to inform the North Island-Powell River riding constituents, we… Continue reading

Tour de Rock ride kicks off in the North Island

I would ride all day in the rain if it means raising money to help these kids”

Promising filmmaker Micah Estlin documents North Island communities

Estlin took on the challenging 2-month summer work experience filming the project.

North Island Rising: A very powerful voter

There is another non-voter though that I would love to see back in the voting booth.

Town of Port McNeill’s financial statements are in, and the numbers might surprise you

One resident asked why CIBC bank charges (Fiscal Expense) were $15,000 higher than the previous year

VIDEO: ‘Thrones,’ ‘Fleabag’ top Emmys

Billy Porter makes history as first openly gay black man to win best drama-series acting Emmy

Three B.C. moms to launch CBD-infused water

Three friends say benefits may include anxiety relief, pain management

B.C. students empowered to ‘shift the vote’ this election

B.C. Federation of Students launches ‘Our Time is Now’ campaign

Justice rules B.C. man gave statement of own free will

Defence wanted Vernon’s Curtis Sagmoen’s video interview with police deemed inadmissible

MEC and LUSH stores to close on Friday for global climate strikes

Retailers will be closed on Sept. 27 so that staff can march in demonstrations

Hybrid vessels part of B.C. Ferries’ plans to reduce emissions

Island Class vessels, coming by 2022, part of ferry corporation’s broader strategy

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Give severely addicted drug users injectable medical-grade heroin, guideline says

CMAJ article outlines best practices for innovative treatment that’s been lacking in overdose crisis

B.C. court hears disclosure arguments in Meng Wanzhou case

Huawei exec argues she was unlawfully detained at YVR last December at direction of U.S. authorities

Most Read