Yesterday many waited for the BC Government’s 1:30pm PT announcement on it Economic Recovery Plan. People were more excited than usual (I mean who other than me, Kevin Milligan, and Rob Gillezeau get excited about such things) as lots of rumours are swirling about the Premier dropping the writ. And so the their Economic Recovery Plan dropped along with Backgrounders.
Now as always I was tied up in meetings and did not get a chance to take a look until this morning. I was hopeful, buoyant, upbeat, and eager to read the plan. After all, BC really led the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and did fairly broad consultations in advance of preparing this plan. And many were saying it would be their road map for their Election Platform.
For those of you not following BC politics, BC must have a general election in Fall 2021. The current BC government is a minority government, where the NDP has formed the government with the backing of the BC Greens through the CASA agreement. This government has survived since September 2017, following the demise of the BC Liberal minority government.
Election talk started to heat up back in August when MLA Tracey Redies resigned her seat, meaning a by election would have to be held by the end of February 2021. Since BC has a fixed budget date, which is the third Tuesday of every February, that meant that a by election could overlap with the budget, which is not ideal for a minority government since budgets are confidence votes.
Premier Horgan has also been polling as THE most popular premier in Canada (Premier Kenney is dead last). We are also seeing long serving an popular NDPers come out of retirement to run for riding nominations. And the snap election called by the minority PC government led by Premier Higgs in New Brunswick that resulted in a PC majority led to many speculating that Horgan might pull a similar stunt.
We also know that most of the terms with the CASA agreement with the BC Green’s were met (hello, waves, we would still like to table our BI final report) and Andrew Weaver who signed CASA but is now sitting as an independent agrees an election now is not reneging on CASA.
The BC Greens just wrapped up their leadership race which was secured by Sonia Fursteneu. Sonia has been front and centre in much of the CASA terms and comes to the party with a strong foundation in Green policies. Plus she is a real joy to work with!
So, yes, it seems possible that BCs Economic Recovery Report may form the basis of an election platform. And so Friday morning while having my coffee I began my read of it.
The first thing that jumped out at me? The Report is….short. 36 pages plus an extra 15 for backgrounders (links above). The second thing that jumps out at me? Despite the commitment from this government to do GBA+ analysis following the MSP Task Force report urging them to take GBA+ seriously, especially related to economic measures, and despite the pandemic hitting women and racialized communities harder, there is no GBA+ analysis at all. This signals to me this government does not at all take GBA+ seriously.
The third thing that jumped out at me is that there is just not a lot of detail and absolutely no analysis at all. The whole document seems rushed and poorly developed. Which as I read on page 4 may be intentional since it says “The next steps….will be included in Budget 2021.” So then, one is left asking why then did you need to come out with this report now if not about paving the way for a general election?
The fourth thing that jumps out at me like a 3D Jaws is, and this usually drives me bonkers about all election platforms and budgets, is that I don’t see a clear message. I see a lot of little things, but what I don’t see is the clarity of message. What is this all meant to achieve? What is the goal? What type of province are you building? And remember that this government has previously had clear strategies before, particularly that laid out in their Poverty Reduction Strategy. Yet I see no mention of the Poverty Reduction Strategy. What to make of that……
So my overall assessment? The BC Economic Recovery Plan is just a bunch of tired and boring measures that have been repackaged as though there is some sort of magic sauce here. Who led this creation of this document? My money is that the person shares three characteristics: male, pale, stale.
What specifics can I get behind….sort of? The biggest thing I can get behind, as it came out of my mouth, is the support for local governments for operating costs and reduce revenue. But what I don’t see is the commitment to work on a new deal for Municipalities to recognize the structural shifts impacting their fiscal future. That is, there is no vision here.
The next item I’ll give a hat tip to is expending the Early retirement bridging program in Forestry. But what I don’t see is thinking about how a more general program is needed paired with wage insurance to help other sectors transition.
It is also nice to see an acknowledgment of the gaps in digital connections, both WiFi and cellular. But WOW, the fact that there is no mention about low income and vulnerable BCers who scrambled to access these services during the pandemic when places like libraries closed and school went online is another huge missed opportunity.
The Plan will also provide a one year rebate on the PST for select machinery and equipment. Seriously? One year!? I mean look at the MSP Task Force. We recommended the PST here be dropped. The Competitiveness Commission like 10 years made a similar recommendation. 1 year *shakes head*.
There are other things, but nothing really worth mentioning. So what is my assessment? If this is the BC NDP’s election plan then they are running on polling popularity, not ideas. There are no bold ideas here…at all.