Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The HST fix? Trust us, say BC Liberals as Christy Clark plays Lucy to British Columbians as Charlie Brown with football

Charlie Brown meets BC Premier Lucy van Pelt and HST football

Christy Clark Has Trust Issues

She's Lucy. The HST is the football. Are we all Charlie Brown?

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday May 31, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"I don't mind your dishonesty half as much as I mind your opinion of me -- you must think I'm stupid."

- Charlie Brown, as Lucy tries to persuade him to kick the football again.

Trust us.

Forget all the times we've broken our promises to you -- this time it will be different.

You have our word on it.

That's what the BC Liberal government is telling voters about the Harmonized Sales Tax.

Believe that they will introduce changes they pledged last week to bring in -- trying to buy your vote with your own money -- but only if you agree to keep the HST in the June binding referendum.

It's like cartoon character Charlie Brown running full speed to once again try kicking the football -- and having it pulled away as usual by his nemesis Lucy Van Pelt.

With the HST, Lucy's character is played perfectly by Premier Christy Clark.

Big smile, sweet words: "This time you can trust me -- see, here's a signed document testifying that I promise not to pull it away."

British Columbians get to be Charlie Brown, the trusting soul who always gets tricked and ends up flat on his back yelling "Arrrgggh!" at his foolish mistake of believing Lucy once more.

That is, unless voters decide to not get fooled again.

Or unless they look at what a bad deal the HST changes really are.

The first part is simple.

Here's what Clark said on March 21 on Vancouver's CKYE Red FM 93.1 on why she would not cut the HST rate:

"We aren't going to be talking about trying to reduce it by a point or two before the referendum. I mean, I think people will see that as buying them with their own money," Clark said.

Now she's trying to buy us with our own money! She does think we're stupid.

And why give a $175 grant for every child under age 18 without any regard for the family income level?

Why give $175 to someone making $200,000 a year? Or $150,000 a year?

But guess who qualifies for that $175 grant -- Premier Christy Clark and Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, who each have a child.

Second, can you believe a BC Liberal government that said it wouldn't introduce an HST, then did so after the election, will cut the HST in 2012 to 11 per cent?

Or that three full years from now it will cut the HST to 10 per cent in 2014?

Can you trust a government that swore the HST would be revenue neutral, then admitted it would raise an extra $820 million a year?

Who can have faith in desperate BC Liberals who said in March 2010 that every dollar from the HST would go to health care, when that's just not true.

Why would you believe a government that promised a 15 per cent income tax cut for all British Columbians last October to convince us to support the HST and then rescinded the tax cut just weeks later?

Can anyone believe BC Liberals who first attacked NDP leader Adrian Dix for pledging to increase corporate taxes to pay for public services -- and then said they would hike corporate taxes to pay for the HST grants and lower rate?

On the HST changes themselves, most British Columbians will still pay more even if the BC Liberals actually do cut the rate to 11 per cent.

That's because you will still pay an extra six per cent on hundreds of goods and services.

The extra six per cent HST would still apply to restaurant food, basic cable TV, telephone, household cleaning, maintenance, and renovations, sports events, movies, gym membership, domestic plane, train or bus travel, taxis, parking, dry cleaning, vitamins, massage therapy, some school supplies, snack foods, haircuts and far more.

In three years if the rate is cut to 10 per cent you will still pay five per cent more on all these things than you did back in June 2009.

Is it any wonder the BC Liberal government is trying to buy your vote with a multi-million dollar ad campaign?

Or that big business is spending millions to keep the massive tax shift that makes consumers pay more and corporations pay less?

Trust us.

Kick the HST football.

What could go wrong?


Monday, May 23, 2011

What the HST will cost us - and why BC should vote "YES" to extinguish the HST in June referendum

Bill Tieleman signs Fight HST citizens Initiative petition April 14, 2010
in Vancouver-Point Grey riding
What the HST is costing us – and why it should go in June’s referendum

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday May 24, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

In terms of the revenue of the HST, it's roughly the same as the revenue we currently get from the PST.

-        B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen, August 13, 2009

The B.C. Liberal government said they wouldn’t impose a Harmonized Sales Tax before the May 2009 election.

Afterwards they did.

Hansen and then-Premier Gordon Campbell said the HST would be “revenue neutral” for government.

Now their hand-picked Independent Panel discovered the HST is raising a whopping extra $820 million a year from your pocket.

And none of it is budgeted to pay for needed public services.

New Premier Christy Clark claims she will “fix” the HST with “smart” moves.

Yeah, right. 

But the only real way to fix this dumb tax is to vote “Yes” to extinguish the HST in the binding mail ballot referendum in June.

Because it’s not hard to figure out the HST is costing you lots of money.

The HST adds an extra 7% to hundreds of goods and services  that were not subject to the Provincial Sales Tax in the past.

The Independent Panel calculates that if your household family income is $40,000 to $60,000 you pay an extra $366 a year in HST.

But for a two-income earning family with both members making $50,000 each – the average B.C. wage – the HST costs you over $1,000 a year!

Those numbers are conservative and don’t include spending major coin on a home renovation or repair.  A $20,000 new roof will set you back an extra $1,400 and for a $50,000 kitchen reno add $3,500.

That’s causing some consumers to pay cash to avoid the entire HST and save the total 12% tax.  But it means honest businesses suffer and their customers pay more while government loses revenue to the black market.

And heaven help you if you want to buy a new home – because the HST adds 7% to anything costing over $525,000 when Vancouver’s average house price is over $1 million. That means on an $825,000 home the extra HST is a cool $21,000.

But even on everyday items you can quickly see how the HST adds up to far more than $366 a family.

My cable TV bill alone shows I’m paying $8 a month in HST while my telephone costs me $7 monthly in HST for a total of $180 on just two basic items!

My condominium fees went up because the HST is charged on cleaning, maintenance and other services – costing me an extra $160 a year.

And our family eats a lot of restaurant food at an extra 7%.  Spend $2,000 a year, add $140 in HST.

Even a cappuccino or coffee and doughnut break at $4 every work day will add up to an extra $67 a year in HST.

My wife and daughter fly to Winnipeg annually to visit family – add $84 to the $1,200 ticket price or to any domestic plane, train or bus travel.

Go to a Canucks game, movie, ballet or work out at the gym or play golf and pay 7% more every time.  For some, that means hundreds more in HST costs.

And the list of extra 7% HST charged is very long. 

Add in taxis, parking, dry cleaning, vitamins, massage therapy, over-the-counter medications, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, bicycles, safety helmets, camping sites, shoe repair, some school supplies, snack foods, haircuts, manicures and pedicures, tailoring, landscaping, accounting, veterinarian visits, computer and appliance repairs – even wedding planners and funerals cost 7% more!

But don’t worry – a few things actually have slightly less tax with the HST. 
Luxury vehicles worth more than $55,000 and disposable baby diapers – go crazy!

The enormous cost of this tax is why I helped form Fight HST with former Premier Bill Vander Zalm, former Unity Party leader Chris Delaney and others, which led a successful citizens Initiative campaign that forced this referendum.

The B.C. Liberal government is spending $5 million of your tax dollars on an advertising campaign telling you to keep the HST. 

Big businesses in the misnamed Smart Tax Alliance are spending many millions more on pricey TV ads with accountants who say the HST is “good” for you.

Nonsense!  Vote Yes to extinguish the HST – and save your money!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Help the BC Liberals rename their party! Your suggestions for Premier Christy Clark's makeover gratefully accepted

Christy Clark - "what's my riding?"
Loose cannon - new BC Lib symbol?

What's in a Name?  "BC Liberal" must go! 

A political makeover for shoot-from-the-hip Christy and her BC Liberals

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday May 17, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"The type who would charge hell with a bucket of water."

- Lady Bird Johnson, on those who act without thinking.

Do you think any political party in the world would trumpet the following approach as a winning strategy?

The party leader narrowly wins a seat in a by-election to enter the legislature, defeating a candidate she repeatedly refused to debate and who wasn't supposed to have a chance.

Within 24 hours of that slim victory, which was a fraction of the margin the ex-leader racked up in several elections in the same riding, the new leader announces she may run somewhere else next time.

In the same 24 hours, a veteran legislator, the leader's campaign chair and until recently the finance minister, makes a surprise announcement that their party should seriously consider changing its name.

After all, why remind voters you handily won three successive elections to hold power for a decade, and have existed as a political party with the same name since 1903, first forming government in 1916?

The leader chimes in to say there are "real merits" to changing the name, but other senior cabinet members disagree -- in public.

Then the leader announces she will make "bold" and "smart" changes to "fix" a despised tax that's been in place for nearly a year -- but won't tell anyone what they are for weeks -- until just before a binding referendum vote.

But she is spending more than $5 million on a government advertising campaign already, despite no one knowing what changes are coming.

Oh yes, and the TV ad campaign features a cartoon stick man to inform consumers about a $2-billion-a-year tax.

Is this any way to run a party? Or a province?

Change in the air

By now you've guessed that this is British Columbia under new Premier Christy Clark, with former minister Colin Hansen in charge of party name changes.

And it's clear Clark is busy trying to change the provincial symbol from the dogwood tree to one more representative of her own style -- a loose cannon!

As someone who endorsed New Democrat candidate David Eby in the Vancouver-Point Grey by-election, where Clark eked out a win of 595 votes despite former premier Gordon Campbell winning by 10 per cent and over 2,300 votes, I should be thrilled at her political miscalculations and insult to the riding.

And as a founder of Fight HST, the group that ran the successful citizens' initiative petition leading to the binding referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax, I should applaud the outrageous ad spending and uncertainty as help in getting a "Yes" vote to extinguish the HST.

But as a political commentator and communications consultant, I'm appalled at how amateurish British Columbia looks right now.

I suspect it's a position shared by some BC Liberal MLAs, all but one of whom declined to endorse Clark in the leadership campaign for increasingly obvious reasons.

Lend a name

So let's at least help the BC Liberal Party pick a new name that accurately reflects its current status.

You can email suggestions, post them on my blog, or post them in the comment thread below.

To get you started, here's a few ideas:

"The Party Formerly Known as BC Liberal";

The "Gordon Campbell? Never Heard Of Him" Party;

The "Because Christy Clark's Really Awesome & Zany, Yeah" Party -- B.C. C.R.A.Z.Y.

The names may change, but B.C. politics will remain wild!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Celebration in honour of our friend Tom Cameron-Fawkes - Wednesday May 18 at 1:30 p.m. Metrotown Hilton Hotel

Tom Cameron-Fawkes
Tom Cameron-Fawkes - A Life to Celebrate

He left us too soon! His humour, generosity and talent will be much missed but warmly remembered.

Please join Tom's family and friends, and UFCW Local 1518 for a special celebration of his life, wit, and work:

1:30 pm on Wednesday, May 18, at the

Metrotown Hilton Hotel - 6083 McKay Ave., Burnaby, BC.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

David Eby versus Premier Christy Clark - the choice couldn't be clearer in Vancouver-Point Grey by-election, given Clark's sorry record

Premier Christy Clark - no debate, a sorry record
David Eby - NDP Vancouver-Point Grey candidate
Vote Gliberal?

Christy Clark is breezy on the campaign trail, but her record is seriously flawed

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"Glib, off-the-cuff comments might make for good ratings on a talk show, but if you want to be leader of our party and premier of our province you have to know that your words have power."

- BC Liberal MLA Kevin Falcon on Christy Clark, Feb. 1, 2011

The Vancouver-Point Grey by-election Wednesday is about far more than whether BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark wins a seat in the Legislature.

Rather, it's the first chance for any B.C. voters to determine whether Clark's flaws of character, policy and record should be punished or rewarded.

It's a choice all British Columbians will likely soon get in a provincial election this fall when Clark faces new NDP leader Adrian Dix and new BC Conservative leader John Cummins.

The by-election match-up of Clark against New Democrat David Eby is a classic for contrast.

Eby is a young lawyer with an admirable record of standing up for human rights and democratic freedoms as the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association and Pivot Legal Society before that.

Clark’s experience with the law consists of breaking it as education minister in ex-premier Gordon Campbell’s cabinet, by violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

And of course, Clark never had to testify in B.C. Supreme Court about what she may have known or not known of the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail in the trial of former BC Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk.

A surprise guilty plea ended the trial before Clark could be called to testify, but after the BC Liberal government signed off on paying $6 million in legal fees for Basi and Virk, despite their lack of innocence.

On the environment, Eby would protect B.C.'s coastline from oil tanker traffic.

But Clark's position: "We've got [oil] tankers going up and down the St. Lawrence [river] for heaven's sake... I don't know why we'd ban them off the west coast."

And Clark's top priority federal government issue? Reversing a decision that the Prosperity Mine in northern B.C. could not proceed because even Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government said it was too environmentally devastating.

Then there are cosmetic pesticides. Clark surprisingly agreed with Dix's proposal last week to ban them -- surprising because her top leadership campaign advisor Gwyn Morgan says the idea is "junk science."

Morgan even disagrees with the Canadian Cancer Society's support for a ban, saying: "The medical evidence is scant."

Has Clark decided to support Dix because she thinks Morgan is wrong -- or because it's politically expedient?

Division or unity?

When it comes to building a team that crosses traditional divides, Eby has gained support from former politicians of different stripes -- like Eleanor Gregory, an ex-BC Liberal constituency president and former Non-Partisan Association Vancouver school trustee.

And Eby's campaign was boosted by NDP MLAs Mike Farnworth, Jenny Kwan, Shane Simpson -- who didn't back Dix's leadership bid -- canvassing with Dix to help defeat Clark.

By comparison, Clark could only convince one unknown backbench MLA to support her leadership campaign and there has been no significant presence of former leadership candidates Falcon, George Abbott or Mike de Jong in Vancouver-Point Grey.

Clark campaigns in a glaring spotlight but totally alone.

And rumours fly that Clark is busy purging BC Liberal MLAs who backed other leadership candidates. That explains West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan's odd letter obtained by Public Eye Online saying he is going to run for another term when there is no election in sight.

North Shore News columnist Trevor Lautens recently wrote that Sultan and West Vancouver -- Sea to Sky MLA Joan McIntyre may be pushed out by Clark's supporters and replaced by former BC CTV News anchor Pamela Martin -- Clark's campaign membership chair -- and Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, West Vancouver's mayor.

Other reports indicate more dissension in BC Liberal ranks, with Clark targeting MLAs and staff who didn't salute her leadership flag for an early pre-election exit.

Ducking debates

Then there's this little thing called democracy.

Clark claims she is "changing" the style of the BC Liberal government and doing things "differently" -- but her cowardly avoidance of all-candidates' debates -- even one organized by parents at Bayview Community School -- is identical to Gordon Campbell's disdain for citizen engagement.

Some media columnists have said Clark the former CKNW radio talk show host would never have tolerated a politician dodging debates.

"Now she has become what she despised," The Province's Mike Smyth wrote after he couldn't convince Clark to participate even in a debate on her old CKNW show, which he now hosts.

But I think otherwise -- because Clark was always a politician who only used her radio show to build profile for her inevitable run for premier -- Clark was no Jack Webster in the making.

Vancouver-Point Grey voters will have their say Wednesday. And Clark's sorry record makes the choice very clear.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Two big winners and two abysmal losers in election: Conservatives and NDP elated, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois devastated

Stephen Harper - winning!

Jack Layton - Official Opposition Leader
Price of Liberals, NDP forcing election is four years - minimum - of Conservative majority government

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Long gun registry, "strategic" voting among many casualties

By Bill Tieleman

A majority is always better than the best repartee.

- Benjamin Disraeli, British prime minister, 1804-1881

In this stunningly exciting federal election two parties were devastated and two – the Conservatives and the New Democrats – absolutely elated.

NDP leader Jack Layton’s “Orange Crush” has fundamentally changed national politics and the near total Liberal and Bloc Quebecois collapse let the Conservatives easily gain their much-wanted majority government.

The NDP bashed the Liberals into third place to achieve their dream of becoming official opposition and absolutely devastated the Bloc Quebecois and their separatist goal.

The Conservatives get their first majority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper despite his campaigning in a bubble and avoiding most media questioning. Harper’s voters really don’t care.

The results sadly vindicate the Conservative strategy of demonizing Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff with negative attack ads, damaging his credibility so much the NDP leapfrogged into second place.

But Ignatieff was also the overly academic author of his own demise.

Now the Tories and NDP have four years to solidify their positions – and marginalize their opponents.

Ignatieff’s failure to connect with voters means the party will seek its third new leader in three years.

Neither a discredited Bob Rae nor an unremarkable Justin Trudeau can rescue the Liberals.

But the Bloc’s near elimination by the federalist NDP is a death blow to separatism and Gilles Duceppe’s leadership.

Harper is now in the position he has wanted since becoming Conservative leader –a four-year mandate with control of Parliament.

And that's not a huge surprise.  In my column of March 29 I predicted a majority Tory win was likely - and many readers strongly criticized me for doing so, but the results speak for themselves. 

At that time I wrote:

"Friday's opposition vote to defeat the Conservative government for "contempt of Parliament" was an exercise in self-delusion, testosterone and faulty logic that will surely result in Stephen Harper returning after the May 2 election as prime minister -- and likely with a majority....."

"The Liberals, NDP and Bloc argued somewhat persuasively that the Conservatives were in contempt of Parliament over their disdain for democracy, openness and accountability."

"So why did the opposition parties foolishly believe that the best way to restore those values is to give Stephen Harper an excellent chance to win a four-year majority?"  

"Now voters who deeply fear a Stephen Harper government with untrammelled power have to feverishly hope the Conservatives do what they will be desperately avoiding -- make a huge campaign mistake."

"Nothing less can stop their drive to majority power," I concluded.

So, will Harper wisely moderate his party’s right-wing red meat demands and instead occupy the centre of the political spectrum?

Or will he throw them steaks – like dismantling the CBC, privatized health care or slashing public services to pay for corporate tax cuts? Count on the long gun registry to die along with public funding for political parties and much more.

Also deceased – strategic voting. The idea of changing the results in ridings with small margins of victory with an ABC campaign – Anybody But Conservative – showed yet again it is a failing strategy, especially when two competing parties completely deflate.

Jack Layton won big. His appealing personality was backed with an excellent campaign that focused on key voter issues like job protection, retirement security, the environment and public health care.

Now Layton has four years to prepare for a classic left-right battle against Harper’s Conservatives – if he can dispatch the Liberals to political history before the next election.

And the election is a warning sign for B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark – the long-time federal Liberal may want to avoid a general election. at least until the Orange Crush runs out.


NDP "Orange Crush" devastates Liberals, Bloc Quebecois - but Conservative majority government elected

NDP devastates Liberals, Bloc Quebecois to take Official Opposition for first time but Conservatives win majority government!

A Conservative majority government, the NDP as official opposition, the Liberals devastated, the Bloc Quebecois destroyed, the Greens irrelevant - what a night.

More soon and my 24 hours/The Tyee column to come.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

UPDATED: Why I will be voting for NDP candidate Victor Elkins in Vancouver Quadra on Monday - not so-called "strategic" voting

Vancouver Quadra NDP candidate Victor Elkins

On Monday I will be casting my vote for Victor Elkins, the New Democratic Party candidate in my riding of Vancouver Quadra - and not voting "strategically" for another candidate whose party I don't support.


First and foremost, the only reason why the NDP and leader Jack Layton are poised to take over Official Opposition status from the Liberal Party of Michael Ignatieff is because NDP voters in hundreds of ridings over dozens of years voted NDP - even when they knew their candidate would likely or surely lose.

The only way a political party can build strength to form the opposition or government is by consistently giving voters a choice - a real choice - with a different philosophy, platform and ideals.  And in the NDP's case, a social democratic choice.

Second, Victor Elkins is the best candidate in the race in Vancouver Quadra.  Liberal MP Joyce Murray was British Columbia's worst environment minister under BC Liberal Premier Gordon  Campbell - even the ministry name was changed to remove "environment"!

But also removed were wildlife protection officers and other staff in a gutting of the ministry's ability to do its job to protect our environment. 

Murray could have stood up for the environment. She could have quit cabinet rather than do the wrong thing - but she stayed and kept her mouth shut.  I could never vote for Murray with her track record - and she has done nothing of consequence as an MP either.

Third, strategic voting doesn't work.  Alice Funke of PunditsGuide.ca has an excellent article on this titled "Why the Conservatives Love 'Strategic' Voting Sites" that explains it well.

As Alice correctly writes: "A vote 'against' someone or something is a vote in favour of nothing. It gives no mandate to elected officials, creates all the wrong incentives for the politicians who are elected that way, and guarantees that Parliament will descend even further into the partisan barking we see there now."

And in an earlier article in 2008, Alice also did the research, rather than simply pontificate like some media and political observers have, and discovered that: "more of the seats that changed hands in an election had previously been won by margins of more than 5%, than had been won with margins under 5%."

That means the entire strategy of strategic voting is flawed - and in this 2011 election I believe it will be shown again with the NDP's results when the party wins seats in Quebec and elsewhere that were nowhere near that 5% margin.

So my advice in Vancouver Quadra - and in your riding, whether you are an NDP, Liberal, Conservative, Green or other party supporter - is to vote your beliefs. 

Your candidate may not win this election - but you won't have to hold your nose in the ballot box - and isn't that what democracy should be about?

UPDATE Monday May 2, 2011 - Election Day

As noted in a comment from PunditsGuide.ca, well-known political columnist Lawrence Martin is reporting another good reason to reject strategic voting.

Martin writes at iPolitics.ca : "The success of the NDP pays off in other ways for Mr. Harper. It could very well give him more time.

"Liberals tell me they are unlikely to want to enter into any formal arrangement with the NDP to bring down the Harper government and seek the approval of the Governor-General to replace it.

"This would mean the Liberals would be playing second fiddle to the New Democrats under Prime Minister Jack Layton. The optics of that, the Liberals say, would not be in their interests.

“'We’ll want to rebuild our own party,' said one 'and you don’t do that by being seen as a support team for the party has just replaced you as the official opposition.'”

Martin also adds this provocative option in his must-read article: "No one has mentioned another post-election possibility, it being the British example wherein the first place party forms an alliance with the third place party to stay in power.

"In this case it would mean a temporary alliance between Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff with the Liberal leader and a few other Grits receiving cabinet posts."

So there you have it - could the Liberal Party that constantly propped up the Harper Conservatives in Parliament for years, under Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, ensure that Harper stays on as prime minister to attempt to salvage their party?