BRIAN KIERAN: Cash greases final sprint to the polls

This coming Sunday — should you tire of M*A*S*H reruns or watching the Toronto Blue Jays get thumped — you can watch Premier Christy Clark.

This coming Sunday — should you tire of M*A*S*H reruns or watching the Toronto Blue Jays get thumped — you can watch Premier Christy Clark and a cast of “everyday British Columbians and community leaders” in a televised 30-minute election campaign kick-off.

It promises to rival the Bollywood extravaganza our government financed and staged last week with your tax dollars. The program, Strong Economy – Secure Tomorrow will air April 14 at 7pm on Global and will feature “Christy unfiltered” (by the noxious media I presume).

Liberal campaign director Mike McDonald, relying on the enduring truth that a fool is born every minute, says the party is mounting this twist on Reality TV because he is kept awake at night trying to figure out better ways to demonstrate “basic respect for voters.” This respect demands that he outline the party’s priorities and policies with “straight-forward, direct information to voters.”

And, so it begins, the 28-day sprint to the polls that could very well see the Liberal majority reduced to about 20 of 85 seats.

Imminent defeat notwithstanding, in the weeks running up to the writ period the Liberals have been demonstrating their “basic respect for voters” by shovelling money out of the public treasury with unfettered enthusiasm.

The Bollywood awards spectacular at BC Place was a perfect star-studded example of this largesse. Still dripping with the shame of the ethno-vote scandal incubated in the premier’s office, the Liberals quickly dried themselves off and fronted the Bollywood awards event with $11 million of public money.

In an ethical universe, this celebration of India’s unique movie genre would have been properly financed and produced by India’s film industry.  However, if that had been the case the audience may not have seen a government-funded video on the BC Place jumbo screen of a young couple’s heroic journey from rural India to B.C. And, Premier Clark — son, Hamish, in tow — may not have been accorded the honour of gratuitously strutting the red carpet.

For a government that sweats bullets to “balance” the 2013/14 budget, the spending in the past few weeks has been death defying: $2 million to “study” a new hospital wing in the Okanagan, $6.3 million for supportive housing, $7 million for regional training, $6.2 million for climate-action, $6.8 million for a job-match program.

In the days to come, spending commitments like these will be dispensed hourly and they will all be financed by debt supported by our future earning power as taxpayers. Of course, the New Democrats won’t be much better. But, at least they are not pretending all this can happen in the context of a balanced budget.

The Liberals’ McDonald acknowledges that his troops have been “written off for dead,” but cautions nattering nabobs of negativism like myself that “there’s more support out there than people give us credit for.”

Indeed, in this campaign only the Liberals and the NDP will have the supporter wherewithal to put their money where their mouth is. Elections BC reports that the Liberals raised $10.1 million in donations in 2012. The NDP were a strong second at $6.9 million in donations.

The Conservatives, held in check by their injury prone leader John Cummins, raised just $256,000. The Greens, who missed the Elections BC filing deadline because their auditor got sick when he looked at the bottom line, are even further behind with just $163,000 in 2012 donations. M

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