For NDP reaction to the BC Budget, I joined other bloggers in a conference call with finance critic Bruce Ralston. This is the second time I’ve participated in a Ralston conference for new media writers. The opposition party indicates willingness to continue regular dialogue with bloggers of all political stripes, a sensible approach because the growing numbers of blog readers are engaged and knowledgeable news consumers.
Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer is one traditional journalists who pretends the abject blog world should be ignored. His words on CKNW, “Nincompoops ranting in their underpants is the term for people blogging, for me.”
Mind you, Vaughn got two columns out of Laila Yuile’s research into Tercon v. British Columbia that recently wound its way through the Supreme Court of Canada. The case exposes scandalous behavior by business masters of the BC Liberals. He provided a way too modest credit to “freelance writer” Laila Yuile on the second column. It’s OK Vaughn, you can call Laila a blogger. She won’t mind nor will her many readers.
Stacey Robinsmith of the leftcoast.ca asked Ralston if there was any chance the Vander Zalm petition could derail HST. The finance critic holds little expectation that process will be successful; reminding it has “a very difficult hurdle.” Even if 10% of voters in each of 85 ridings sign, the initiative remains in government hands, likely to be sidetracked endlessly.
Ralston did admit that NDP members helped create the unworkable process.
The finance critic said the property tax deferral offered owners with young children was unimpressive and that providing a debt trap for a few does nothing to add inventory, reduce costs or improve rental conditions.
Ralston also warned people to be aware that federal grants and contributions were being manipulated, saying this involved a shell game by mutually sympathetic governments where allocations could be shifted by political whim. The Liberals have done this twice already with the HST transition payment and federally funded infrastructure projects were traded for Olympic funds. Ralston says the Harper and Campbell governments cooperated to obscure Olympic security costs. He said the transfers situation will be uncertain until the Auditor-General reports.
I reminded Ralston that the provincial government sets higher standards of financial reporting for public companies than it follows itself. I asked if the NDP avoided pressing for improved standards because they didn’t want to be constrained by tougher rules when they come to power.
Ralston said the report of the Budget Process Review Panel tabled in September made numerous recommendations for improvements and the NDP supported those changes. The first panel to review budgeting was appointed by the NDP ten years ago. Twenty-five changes suggested in that report were implemented. In the 2009 report, Douglas Enns and colleagues laid out 16 new recommendations and updates to earlier ones.
I also inquired if BC regulatory agencies were sufficiently funded to ensure safe development of north-east gas, particularly with the use of hydraulic fracturing. Ralston said he had recently reviewed the fracking process and was following American efforts within many jurisdictions to exercise controls. He agreed this is a troublesome subject that needs closer scrutiny and said the Liberals appear to trust excessively in the producer companies’ “self-regulation.”
Read more about environmental risks involving shale gas HERE:
Instead of stimulating further exploration, I wondered if last year’s changes to gas royalties and tax credits had the effect of increasing profitability of reserves already discovered. Ralston agreed that the markets for natural gas were changing with new shale reserves but he had not previously heard that analysis. We’ll follow up with him later on the subject.
I missed the opening moment so I’m not sure about names of all participants but they also included Northern BC Dipper and Politics, Re-Spun. Check them out.