I got pretty political during the Federal election in 2015 and I even wrote a post titled “Vote for Bob D’Eith“. Bob was the NDP candidate in my riding.
Well, it’s Provincial election time and I haven’t had the time to investigate the candidates too deeply, let alone create a well-researched blog post about it, but I do have something to say, for what it’s worth.This is my political T-shirt this time around. That’s Neil Degrasse Tyson saying, “What if I told you that it’s okay to change your opinion based on the latest evidence?”
With a T-shirt like that, you’d think I’d be voting Green, wouldn’t you? Sorry, but we still have a first-past-the-post system here, and in my riding of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, the race is between the NDP and the BC Liberals and I have to vote against the Liberals IMHO. So do what you want, but this time around I’m voting for Lisa Beare of the NDP.
Do I have something personal against my BC Liberal candidate? No, but if we look at the responsibilities of the provincial government, especially healthcare, housing, education and transportation the evidence shows that those files, after 16 years of Liberal government, are not doing well.
What we typically hear from Liberal candidates is that they will create jobs, but I’m hearing from economists that provincial governments have very little control over the economy as a whole. The promises that Liquified Natural Gas will solve everything have been proven hollow, yet they continue making them.
Speaking of LNG, how does such intense support of the fossil fuel industry jibe with fighting Climate Change? I’ve written about the inconsistent support for reducing home energy use, even though I appreciate the new Oil to Heat-pump rebate, but how can a government simultaneously build a massive hydro-electric project like Site C, push LNG and still support homeowners reducing their GHG emissions?
They can’t and they don’t.
Priorities like LNG and Site C demand that the world use more natural gas and more electricity, not less. China should move (and is moving) directly from burning oil and coal to using renewable energy. British Columbians can and should reduce their energy use and switch to renewables, too.
UBC researchers have even found that halting construction of the Site C dam is our best economic move. “The report calls for the project to be suspended as it has become ‘uneconomic.'”
Without First-Past-The-Post, I would say let’s collect the best information from experts on how to solve the challenges before us–the housing crisis, the drug-overdose crisis, rising healthcare premiums, rising BC Hydro rates, climate change, etc.– and then vote for the party whose platform most closely matches what the experts recommend. It is my impression that the NDP and the Greens have platforms that are far more evidence-based so, in this system, it becomes a question of voting for the candidate who stands the best chance of defeating the BC Liberals, whose platform seems based on populism and trickle-down economics.
A case in point in Maple Ridge is the homelessness issue. It’s not unique to Maple Ridge, but two years ago there was a large “tent city” that sprang up in the downtown and wouldn’t go away. Many residents and local businesses naturally wanted to blame the people camping there because they are breaking the law, but homelessness and drug addiction are problems that can be traced to failings in Provincial policies related to healthcare, housing and education.
It’s a question of priorities. The good folks in the BC Liberal party like to campaign on the concept of balancing the annual Provincial government budget. Every election, if they can claim to have done that, many people will vote for them. I guess we think of our household budget and how hard it is to balance that, and surmise that if the government does it, they must be good fiscal managers. However, a province is not a household and the long-term economic and social well-being of the province cannot be managed in this way.
If you want to balance your short-term budget, you must ignore the experts that tell you to invest in education, affordable housing and healthcare. In the long-term, failing to invest will cost far far more. (To be fair to the BC Liberals, our political system is not set up to manage long-term challenges very well and it takes a lot of trust for someone to vote for a party who says they will run a deficit, even if its the right thing to do.)
So, when other parties promise to increase funding to deal with these problems, the BC Liberals fire back that what they are proposing is impossible “within the framework of a balanced budget.” This is a false standard. People are dying. People can’t afford to live in the Lower Mainland. People can’t afford childcare. Beyond the human cost, these crises have long-term disastrous effects on our economy.
The way the BC Liberals have chosen to “balance the budget” has been to cut (or fund inadequately): education (including childcare), healthcare and transportation. Ironically, the result is that ordinary households shoulder the burden of increased healthcare premiums, higher BC Hydro rates, traffic congestion, housing costs, childcare costs, etc. (And if you want to take the extra step of renovating and retrofitting an older home, forget it!)
Yes, while the Provincial government’s books look nice, most households are borrowing heavily. That’s not sustainable.
So what happened to the homeless camp? Did the provincial government step up? No.
As I recall, it was the Municipal government who arranged for a temporary shelter made sure the homeless camp was dismantled. A lot of people didn’t like that our property taxes helped fund a homeless shelter, and neither did I, but somebody had to do something. Was it worth it? Apparently, yes. While deaths due to fentanyl overdoses are still rising in other municipalities, those in Maple Ridge have gone down. That’s a Municipal Government taking on a Provincial Government responsibility and showing them how it’s done.
Did Maple Ridge Council listen to the experts? Here’s a story on BC Housing presenting to Council last year: click here. BC Housing is the Crown Corporation that should be leading our representatives with fact-based advice. I wonder why their website, www.bchousing.org is showing “service unavailable” right now? Perhaps their fact-based advice is not something Christy Clark would like us to hear right now? Ah well, the information is still out there. UVic’s Centre for Addictions Research wrote a policy framework for the City of Victoria and it clears up a lot of questions.
That “temporary” shelter’s operation stretched out while the homeless hot potato bounced around. How much easier it is for a government if homeless people keep to themselves so we can ignore them, eh?
Nobody wants a homeless shelter in their neighbourhood, but experts will tell you it needs to be centrally located and accessible (among other things) or there is no point. The way it usually works is the city provides land and the Province builds the facility. The Quality Inn was identified as the next step–still temporary, but it would do until a permanent shelter was built with $15 million of Provincial funds. There was, of course, a protest and it seems that our two local BC Liberal MLAs intervened and asked the Housing Minister to cancel the Quality Inn plan. That extended the use of the first temporary shelter.
Next, the City agreed to buy another plot of land for $1 million. In the face of more protests, our MLAs rejected that site, too. More recently, they held a public forum and appointed 7 residents to choose a location for the shelter. Any experts on that panel? Nope. The big thing we know about the panel’s recommendation so far is that it should be outside the city centre and shouldn’t be “low barrier”. Now, I’m sure these are well-meaning, concerned citizens, but how much do they know about where a permanent, multi-faceted housing and service center should be located other than, “not in my back yard”? If we put the facility out of sight (and out of mind) there is a good chance we will pay $15 million for a hardly-used facility while the crisis continues. That’s right, a shelter AND a homeless camp.
This is hardly evidence-based decision making. This is populism at its worst.
While this staggering inaction is continuing, the 2 year-old “temporary” shelter is being closed down and the situation is returning to where we were two years ago when the homeless camp sprang up. Is there another camp? Of course there is. Politically speaking, what our BC Liberal candidates must be hoping is that their supporters will take their anger and frustration out on the people creating the new camp and not on them.
It’s not a bad bet politically. I can imagine a crowd chanting, “Lock them up! Lock them up!” However, what we really need is leadership which listens to both the public and the experts but is not afraid to do what is right based on the best possible evidence. What we have now is MLAs who listen to the people who shout the loudest.
One last note about the NDP. Someone I know says they will never vote for the NDP because of experiences they had with a labour union 30 years ago. Is that still a thing? I pointed out that Christy Clark was Education Minister 15 years ago when the BC Liberal government illegally altered the teachers’ contract and has been spending millions of Provincial government money fighting a case they must have know they would lose. “But it’s a different party now” came the response.
30 years vs. 15 years.
I don’t like party loyalty and you won’t get me to pledge my future support to any party, but if you hate the NDP on principle but are willing to accept that the BC Liberals can change their ways, you should read my T-shirt again.
What if I told you that it’s okay to change your opinion based on the newest evidence?