The consensus is clear. Gordon Campbell, Colin Hansen and their Liberal colleagues based the 2009 election campaign and the two 2009 budgets on centrally crafted deceit. Both deserve no confidence and should resign.
According to an Ipsos Reid online poll, 72 per cent of British Columbians believe Premier Gordon Campbell and the B.C. Liberal party “intentionally misled voters” during the recent election campaign about the state of the province’s finances.
Gary Mason’s Globe and Mail headline is: Deficit tally fictitious, and Liberals knew it:
No one believed the government would be able to hold the deficit at half a billion, except, it seemed, Mr. Hansen, the Premier and anyone running for the Liberals.
As I say, they maintained this position throughout the election campaign. Even with members of the government’s own economic forecast council – the same people the government had relied on to come up with the $495-million deficit figure – having long ago changed their tune.
. . . Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Mr. Hansen would have been getting regular economic updates from his staff throughout the spring, leading up to the election call on April 16. And his staff would have told him that their own forecasters were changing their revenue projections downward. And that those forecasts would have a colossal impact on the budget numbers released in February.
. . . In the spring of this year, the Liberals campaigned on budget numbers that were complete fiction. And now we know that even they knew it. I guess they just didn’t have the heart to tell anyone.
The Globe and Mail’s Justine Hunter:
British Columbia’s Finance Minister publicly maintained confidence in his $495-million deficit forecast eight weeks after he learned of a gaping revenue hole that would triple his budget shortfall.
…The issue of the budget figures played prominently throughout the spring election, as economic reports pointed to a serious economic downturn. Speaking during the campaign, Mr. Hansen maintained it would not change the Liberal platform.
Les Leyne of the Times Colonist in Campbell’s ‘liar’ strategy haunts him:
But people still feel significantly misled by a post-election budget that’s six times deeper in the red than the pre-election version.
And the Liberals are in far more trouble than they ever dreamed they would be.
Michael Smyth at the Province:
You know what’s challenging? Trying to swallow this government’s tortured excuses for its broken election promises. That’s challenging.
Vaughn Palmer concludes the September budget is:
…the least forthcoming budget in many years. . . . it also reinforced the impression of a government that was making things up as it goes along, withholding key information as a matter of course, releasing it only when backed to the wall.
The answers sounded scripted. And from where I sat in the legislative press gallery, the Liberal duo appeared to be working from a common text, set in large type with key passages highlighted for ease of reading.
Indeed, on several occasions when it was Hansen’s turn to answer, Campbell plunked down a page in front of him and jabbed a finger at the relevant passage, as if to say, “Here’s your line — now read it.
…Hansen perhaps hopes to defuse a bigger bombshell down the road.
Raphael Alexander, writing in the National Post:
The excuses just don’t wash. This is the provincial Finance Minister claiming he wasn’t apprised on the financial state of the province. And the people of B.C. aren’t buying. A recent poll puts the premier’s support at 17%, the lowest of any provincial leader in Canada. In a media scrum yesterday, he told reporters that perhaps the budget was a little too difficult for them to understand.
We’ve seen this song and dance before. When Gordon Campbell’s back is to the wall, he lashes out, patronizes doubters and then goes into hiding until things calm down. But unlike the B.C. Rail scandal and the carbon tax, the premier won’t be able to lay low on this one. The dominoes are toppling, and all we can do is stand back and watch the show.
Kelly McParland of the National Post wrote The amazing shameless government of British Columbia:
Throughout the entire mess, the only thing the B.C. Liberals have consistently done is ignore all the warning signs. Even back in February leading economist Helmut Pastrick predicted a much larger deficit, but the Liberals dismissed him as “pessimistic”. And they accused Carole James of “fear mongering” every time the New Democrats warned that B.C. Liberal revenue projections were out of touch with reality.
Paul Willcocks writes Campbell, Hansen fail the smell test:
So after rejecting the HST as bad for B.C. during the campaign, within four weeks the Liberals had committed to a deal with the federal government to introduce the new tax. No one outside of a handful of insiders was involved in the decision. No analysis or public or business consultation.
Even looked at in the best light, the explanations paint those involved as incurious bunglers, making policy on the fly based on short-term political interests.
Most British Columbians, the poll suggests, also believe they were dishonest.
David Berner at the Berner Monologues:
The current Liberal Government was elected on a lie. The $495 Million deficit they announced at election time was easily in the Billions. They knew it and perhaps some of you knew it. Now we all now it.
Harvey Oberfeld at Keeping it Real:
I said the provincial government had opened a war front on the middle class, The proof is now before us all in black and white: the latest budget update. There is absolutely no doubt the big winners are business … and the bigger the business, the bigger the winner!