Written in April 2010, this has been one of the most popular reads on In-Sights. It deals with many issues that remain in play long after. Did Premier Gordon Campbell restore any faith by his October 27, 2010 speech? Not with anyone who has been paying attention. (A few minor changes are made to the original article.)
During its years in power, BC Liberals remade British Columbia. While the provincial economy grew, the fortunes of ordinary people declined, for the first extended period ever. Beneficiaries of change had demanded redistribution of wealth to the disadvantage of all but a few. The end result was not incidental or accidental.
For success, the Liberals needed heroes and villains. That required a massive long-term campaign, involving information and disinformation. It was organized more easily than most citizens would expect and paid for by the public purse.
Corporate media cooperated by carrying messages. With ownership by sympathetic plutocrats, these dependable friends gained from taxpayer paid advertising campaigns. Liberals brought together major elements of the information enterprise by centralization of government communications. With considerable funding, hundreds of servants loyal to the Party shaped and filtered messages.
Think tank Fraser Institute, with financing from Canada’s wealthiest – particularly investors in the energy and private medicine sectors – spends over a million dollars a month on its campaign against the public sector. Neoliberals aiming to defund government, resource companies that abhor royalties and regulations, investors lobbying for privatized healthcare and large tax avoiders develop Fraser Institute philosophies.
Message making began even before the 2001 election. Creating villains was the first act. A few old guard NDP opponents, Stupich and Williams for example, come to mind as easy targets. Destroying Harcourt and Clark took longer because they were essentially good people, as lives after politics demonstrated. Glen Clark flourished as a senior executive with the Jim Pattison Group and people do not survive in that empire if they are dull or corrupt. Truth did not stop media from portraying Clark as a cheat because a friend helped him make home improvements.
A Liberal friendly RCMP officer even arranged for Global TV news cameras to be present for a search of Premier Clark’s east Vancouver home. It may be significant that the officer in charge of the investigation once said, “Smear campaigns are our specialty” and Campbell had invited him to stand as a Liberal candidate and talked of the possibility of him joining Cabinet.
Media did not show the man that his neighbors knew, the father of a young family who stood easily in a crowd of fellow parents watching kids play minor hockey. Ultimately, a Supreme Court Judge tossed the politically motivated charges but Glen Clark’s political career was over.
Labor unions were equally important targets. British Columbia prosperity had been based on its good union wage economy. Communities, including Powell River where I did high school, lived happily, largely in middle class egalitarianism. We joked that every house seemed to have two boats in the driveway.
For decades, provincially controlled resource companies and unions survived despite times of creative tension. The working classes were empowered, unlike the ever earlier times when company towns exercised central control of jobs, housing, merchandising and every other life element. Workers could be summarily discharged and run out of town – and they were – for offending a manager or being suspected of leftist sympathy.
Liberals targeted education, healthcare, roads and ferry services – main enterprises of government – for intensive mistreatment. Part of the strategy was to attack the status of employees, accuse them of radicalism, inefficiency and greed. The object of human resource policy was not good labour relations; it was to create divides and disruptions. Old contracts were revoked by legislation, new ones imposed and reimposed after courts declared the first moves unconstitutional. Privatization was the aim, even if the incoming contractors were disreputable dodgers headquartered in havens far removed from regulators and tax authorities.
Liberal political operatives spread through the public service, replacing professional managers with agents of the Politburo. Our fine paramedic service has been, and still is, subject to intensive disrespect only because it is a public service. Loyal soldier Lee Doney was there to ensure that disruption went according to plan.
Aluminum ferries were taken out of service to shame the previous NDP administration. Ships that could have been made serviceable were given to Liberal supporters for even less than scrap value. After keeping them on public display in the Washington Group’s North Vancouver harbor, the company sold the ships for service to the UAE, for an undisclosed price with a gain known to be substantial. Of course, the public that paid to build these ships gets no disposal detail.
A long history of inexpensive clean power was targeted for destruction. Premier WAC Bennett said that low cost power would be a foundation for job development as long as it was used at home, not exported south to run factories in the USA. Gordon Campbell turned that policy on its head. Now, BC Hydro is obliged to purchase high cost interruptible power so they can dump it in the export market at one third of its cost.
BC still gains from low cost “heritage” generation sites but imagine if private companies had built the Peace and Columbia River dams in the sixties. The utility charges would quadruple today’s electricity prices.
Even worse, BC Hydro must pay prices to private producers that are unrelated to market conditions and guarantee risk-free inflation protected profits to the sellers for decades to come. Even if power is not needed, BC Hydro must pay private producers, even when no power is delivered. The scheme is even better for privates than the earlier intention, which was privatization. Under the system that went forward, all of the risks are carried by taxpayers but profits flow to the independent operators. This is planned fraud, shielded from public view by government imposed secrecy. The beneficiaries are common to other frauds involving the public purse.
Commuters in the working class suburbs of Pitt Meadows and Langley pay tolls to cross the Fraser River while luxury SUVs head for the ski slopes of Whistler on the $1.2 billion untolled highway. By the way, if you want evidence that Postmedia newspapers are message carriers for the Liberal government, examine this puffery in the Vancouver Sun. (Writer’s note: Laila Yuile discovered that taxpayers are paying shadow tolls to to the Sea to Sky Highway private operator (S2S Transportation Group) for all vehicles driving the roadway.)
One attitude of citizens that BC Liberal governance has reinforced beyond all reasonable levels is distrust. It is the confident expectation that another individual’s motives, intentions and behaviors are sinister and harmful to one’s own interests. Regular readers know that I have written about how one hand cleans another when plutocrats do the washing.
We have accumulated so much indirect and circumstantial evidence of corruption that, despite frenetic efforts of Liberal defenders, a reasonable person can draw only one conclusion. The facts are not merely consistent with guilt but inconsistent with innocence.