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(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Feb. 14, 2005)

Budget Blues: Who to Trust?

John Pifer

It is evident that over the next three months in the campaigning to Election Day in BC, May 17, the key words will be “trust” and/or its opposite, “distrust”. And you may rest assured that they will be bandied about from all sides, all of the time.

Based on the predictable comments and reaction to the provincial Budget brought down on Tuesday, the nasty campaign is already under way, one that may well plumb the depths of political rhetoric and razzmatazz, even for BC.

Set aside all of the media BS about what a “surprise” it was that this is an election Budget – what the hell else would it be when the date for the vote was set in stone? That decision by Premier Gordon Campbell to remove all flexibility as to when to call an election, may well come back to haunt him, as he is boxed into a corner by his own deadline.

Nevertheless, a cornered animal is often at its most dangerous, and most inventive, when survival is at stake. And even with a massive majority in the Legislature, the Liberals are fighting to survive, and are pulling out all of the stops in the political organ to retain power.

That is neither a good thing nor a bad thing; it simply is the capital-T truth.

By bringing in a user-friendly, tax-cutting, higher-spending Budget, the Liberals seek to overcome three years of Mr. Campbell’s mean-spiritedness and policy decisions that left a bad taste in the mouths of many, including some of his party’s usual supporters.

The NDP and its shrill whiner of a untried and inexperienced leader, Carole James, predictably moaned about how the Liberals simply cannot be trusted, given the “horror” of the previous three years of cuts to social services and broken promises, yada, yada, yada.

Well, of course she did! Having offered nothing so far in the way of “solutions” to the problems of the province, Ms. James has set up for her election campaign to be an all-out attack on Mr. Campbell and his trustworthiness, or lack of it. That focus has an interesting opposite – it asks that the voters of BC trust her – a little-known former school board chair who pledged to severe, or at least to reduce, the ties that bind the New Democratic Party to the Big Unions, and then sidled away from that enormous task, under pressure, it would appear, from the union big bosses.

Now, with many retreads from BC’s sorry decade of NDP governments returning as candidates, fewer women running than the Liberals, and having to face a “good news” budget and its fallout, Ms. James and the NDP certainly have a long way to go to become government. There is no doubt that they will take seats away from the Liberals, but enough to seize power? Don’t bet on it.

It would take a total meltdown by Mr. Campbell and his cronies -- or the emergence of a viable alternative to the two main parties – for that to happen. The latest contender in that category, the Democratic Reform Party of BC (or DR BC, as it wants to be known), maintains that it has the remedy for BC’s political ills; but it has only three months to gain the publicity, the credibility, the votes and … wait for it … the trust of the –people that it would need to make any kind of an impact on the outcome.

The old adage that a week in politics is a long time may be true; let’s see what three months of these political games bring! Stay tuned.

Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at


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