Public Eye – February 3

Three weeks from now, BC Liberal Party members will elect their next leader and our next premier. But, so far, the three lead contenders for that job have said little about their plans for the government’s biggest spending ministries.

  • Feb. 1, 2011 6:00 p.m.

Lead contenders mum about big spenders

Liberal leadership mystery

Three weeks from now, BC Liberal Party members will elect their next leader and our next premier. But, so far, the three lead contenders for that job have said little about their plans for the government’s biggest spending ministries.

Those ministries — which are responsible for health services, education, housing, social development, advanced education, labour market development and children and family development — had expenses totaling $25.21 billion in the past fiscal year.

But, according to a review of their platforms, George Abbott, Christy Clark and Kevin Falcon have spent most of the leadership campaign talking about economic and accountability issues.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some specific promises concerning the day-to-day government services we rely on.

Falcon has, for example, spoken of the need to reward “exceptional and innovative” teachers, as well as ensure “parents of autistic children are supported in choosing the best style of intervention for their kids.”

Abbot, meanwhile, has committed to a “public engagement initiative on the issue of child poverty.”

And Clark wants to cover the cost of nicotine replacement therapies.

But those examples are the exceptions rather than the rule, with the candidates seeming to prefer to talk in generalities about those issues.

Indeed, in an interview with Monday, University of Victoria political science professor emeritus Norman Ruff said, “There are no concrete policy action plans there. There’s a token acknowledgement of their importance but nothing to back it up. And when they do but forward a concrete proposal its gimmickry.”

And that “amazing lack of substance,” according to political pundit Bill Tieleman, is somewhat surprising given that most of the leadership race contestants “are directly involved in or have been directly involved in the highest levels of government.”

Which means British Columbians could be in for an even bigger surprise after the Liberals hold their leadership vote on Feb. 26. M

Sean Holman is the editor of the online provincial political news journal Public Eye (publiceyeonline.com) and host of Public Eye Radio, 8-10 a.m. Sunday mornings on CFAX 1070.

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