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Kieran Report - Liberal spin doctors rewrite the ’90s

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With their backs to the wall, Premier Christy Clark and the New Christy Minstrels have been singing a familiar refrain, an old 1990s folk tune about the socialist hordes and B.C.’s near death experience.

Last Friday, the desperate Liberals launched a new TV ad, which “talks about the role of (NDP Leader) Adrian Dix in bringing the B.C. economy to its knees in the 1990s.”

Indeed, B.C.’s economic growth through the 1990s under NDP rule was well below the national average. However, contrary to Liberal’s revisionist song sheet, the 1990s did not represent the collapse of western civilization.

Nevertheless, in 2001 then-premier Gordon Campbell was so confident he could do better he created the B.C. Progress Board, a panel of gifted entrepreneurs and academics who had carte blanche to track B.C.’s return to economic and social pre-eminence.

In her effort to erase all traces of her predecessor, Premier Clark disbanded the Progress Board and created a new Jobs and Investment Board. But that was not before the Progress Board issued a final “benchmark” report that indicates B.C. was not better positioned on the national stage in 2010 than it was in 2001. In fact, we are slipping in the most important categories.

The report states that B.C. outcomes have improved in some areas over the past decade. The problem is, however, many Canadian provinces have performed much better than we have.

Thus our national rankings have slipped in the key areas of the economy, personal income and jobs ... the worst possible outcome for the Liberals since former premier Campbell had promised B.C. would lead the nation.

One of the powerful elements of the Progress Board’s work was its mandate to measure societal factors. Some of the outcomes over the past decade are, frankly, embarrassing. In the omnibus category called “social condition,” a measure of the inequality between the haves and the have-nots, B.C. is Canada’s ninth worst province.

In the sub-category of “low income cut offs,” a measure of poverty based on the percentage of income needed for food, shelter and clothing, B.C. is worse than every other province. When it comes to “long term unemployment” we are ninth.

In fairness, I must report that B.C. is number one in Canada when it comes to environmental quality, protected areas, cancer mortality and life expectancy at birth. But, those accomplishments don’t offset the fact that we continue to treat our least fortunate like crap.

Outgoing Progress Board Chair Gerry Martin says he is confident the new entity will keep government’s feet to the fire and continue “to monitor important social and economic indicators.”

But the premier’s spin doctors have dropped all reference to the monitoring of societal issues. The new board’s head honcho, Ray Castelli says: “The role of the Jobs and Investment Board is to help government ensure no stones are left unturned in the search for long-term investment and sustainable jobs for our communities.”

In essence, the new board is there to put meat on the bones of Premier Clark’s jobs strategy ... nothing more, nothing less.

The question then becomes: How can a premier supposedly dedicated to the welfare of B.C. families suddenly decline to be informed about the social benchmarks that measure the hardships of the working poor and the chronically unemployed? M

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