BRIAN KIERAN: Clark’s fact-free campaign sinks

At the start of the election campaign Christy Clark was on the ropes.

At the start of the election campaign Christy Clark was on the ropes. Her Families First strategy and her Canada Starts Here Jobs Plan were running on empty. Her caucus was mutinous. The best people in her cabinet opted for retirement over defeat. The pollsters had her trailing the NDP’s Adrian Dix by as much as 20 points. Her chances of holding her own Vancouver-Point Grey riding were slim and none.

Clark’s only course of action was to demonize Dix as a political felon and a jobs killer and to tell a whoppingly audacious lie about the fiscal health of the province. Bold to a fault, Clark plastered her big lie on the side of her campaign bus — “Debt Free BC” — and put the pedal to the metal.

With mere days left until the polls open next Tuesday, the most recent Ipsos Reid survey shows the gap between the Liberals and the NDP narrowed to 10 points. That is down from a 19-point gap at the start of the campaign. Pollster Angus Reid has the difference between the two parties at an even slimmer seven points.

By my deadline earlier this week, ThreeHundredEight.com, a sophisticated website that analyses a variety of polling data, was predicting an NDP victory over the Liberals by 46 seats to 38 (with one independent). That’s nowhere near the crushing defeat predicted four weeks ago.

ThreeHundredEight shows the NDP continuing to have a strangle-hold on Vancouver Island (12 seats to two for the Liberals) and a comfortable margin of victory in Metro Vancouver (25 seats to 14). However, data for the Interior suggests the Liberals will thump the NDP by a margin of more than two to one (22 seats to nine). Clearly, in the Interior, where resource communities live or die according to the province’s economic and fiscal well-being, voters want to believe the big lie has a ring of truth.

Those of you who are wavering should consider these facts: When Liberals came to power in 2001, the total provincial debt was about $36 billion. Today, that debt is about $62 billion. And, the rate of annual debt growth will peak this year at almost 12 per cent. In the space of two short years Clark’s administration has added $10 billion to the total debt. That jump is unprecedented in provincial budgeting history.

The Liberals’ 2013/14 Budget and Fiscal Plan really puts the lie to the bus banner. It states: “As government continues its capital investment program and given the impact of reverting to a PST/GST system, total provincial debt, including commercial Crown self-supported debt, will reach $69.4 billion by 2015/16.”

The question too few have asked is how this mounting and crippling debt squares with Clark’s promise that B.C. will be “debt free in 15 years.” The answer is, it doesn’t. Dix is spot on when he says Clark has been running a “fact-free campaign.” M

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