BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Special Edition 2020
Judge them by what they did, not by what they say
We’re still paying the price for what the B.C. Liberals
did during 16 years in office
By Soren Bech Editor, The Advocate
BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson may seem like a new face. He’s not. He cut his teeth in politics serving as a deputy minister in the office of former Premier Gordon Campbell as the B.C. Liberals slashed vital public services.
Their first step was to implement a fantasy just as bizarre as Christy Clark’s claim that LNG would make us all rich.
They cut taxes – mostly for the very wealthy and profitable corporations – claiming these unneeded tax giveaways would pay for themselves.
The annual reduction in revenue was more than $2.1 billion.
At the same time, they fired more than two dozen deputy ministers, and replaced them with hand-picked ideologues – including then B.C. Liberal Party President Andrew Wilkinson. He was hired at $180,000 a year to oversee intergovernmental relations in the Premier’s office. All the new folks were given raises of nearly 32 percent, plus performance bonuses.
More for them. Less for us. We all paid for it.
Huge cuts in public services
Before the election, the B.C. Liberals promised no cuts. Indeed, their platform promised in 13 separate places to improve, protect or enhance public services.
The reality that British Columbians faced in the following years was a different story.
Ministries were instructed to provide three scenarios: “Reductions of 20, 35 and 50 percent over the next three years.” Cabinet ministers were told to compete with each other to see who could cut the most.
They did just that. It resulted in what The Economist last called “a wild gallop to the right.”
In short order, while Mr. Wilkinson sat at the right hand of the Premier, the B.C. Liberals:
• Cancelled the before and after school day care program.
• Ended MSP coverage for eye exams, physiotherapy, massage and chiropractic services and diabetic supplies.
• Delisted 17 drugs from Pharmacare.
• Froze health and education funding, an effective 9 percent cut.
• Cut 20 percent from fish and wildlife habitat protection and enforcement of environmental regulations.
• Scrapped the climate change program, the Green Economy Secretariat, and Fisheries Renewal B.C.
• Abandoned the ban on raw log exports, and the link between logging and local jobs.
• Fired the human rights commissioner, the environmental auditor and the mental health advocate.
• Cut $7.5 million from job re-training programs for welfare recipients.
Still the attacks continued
Through the years, the tax giveaways to the most fortunate went on while the rest of us were forced to shoulder the burden.
Their plans included closing 24 court houses, cutting legal aid by 40 percent, cutting alcohol and drug treatment, cutting childcare subsidies for low-income parents.
They ripped up legal contracts negotiated by teachers and health care workers. They cut social service spending. They radically increased MSP premiums, one of the most unfair taxes imaginable. They put tolls on bridges. Froze the minimum wage.
Their plan to “protect health care“ turned out to include:
• Closure of hospitals in 11 communities.
• Closure of 3,000 badly needed long-term care beds.
• Freeing health authorities to apply user fees.
• Targeting health care workers for layoff.
And Mr. Wilkinson worked to make it all happen.