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Say good-bye to the BC Liberals

Fighting today for a better tomorrow
Anton Cu Unjieng, Bradley Hughes, Devin Nathan-Turner and Anna Roik

April 29, 2013

Most people in BC will celebrate when the incumbent Liberals lose the election on May 14. Their twelve year reign has been a disaster for the majority in BC; only the rich few and their corporations have benefited.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has documented the range and cost of Liberal tax cuts. Since 2001, tax cuts have savaged provincial revenues and resulted in an income tax system where the rich now pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes then the poor do. The richest one percent have received a tax cut equivalent to 5.1 per cent of their income while the bottom half of households have experienced a tax cut of around one percent of their income. The tax cut for the richest one per cent of households is $41,000 each. This yearly present from the Liberals is more money then the average annual income of the poorest 30 per cent of households.
Corporate income tax rates have been reduced from 16.5 per cent down to 10 per cent, and the corporation capital tax has been eliminated entirely.
In total, provincial tax revenue has decreased from 11.6 per cent of GDP when the Liberals were elected down to 10 per cent of GDP by 2011/12. This is a loss of $3.5 billion in tax revenue every year.
The only area of government program spending that hasn't decreased relative to GDP is health care, but it has barely improved. In 2001 health care spending by the province was 7.9 per cent of GDP, in 2011 it was eight per cent. All other program spending, including education, social services and housing declined between 2001 and 2011. As a consequence, total spending by the province went from 22.7 per cent of GDP in 2001 down to 19.9 per cent of GDP in 2011.
The number of hospital beds per capita has decreased by 17 per cent between 2001 and 2011, largely due to the Liberals' decisions to close hospitals. These cuts have produced an epidemic of “hallway health care.” Patients are regularly left in beds in hallways because the hospitals are forced to operate over capacity.
Out of ten provinces in 2001, the BC government was second in terms of per capita spending on health care. By 2011 BC dropped down to second last.
The president of the BC Nurses' Union, Debra McPherson, says, “BC currently has the fewest number of nurses for the size of population of any province or territory in the country.”
Under the Liberal government, teachers were stripped of their bargaining rights and $336 million annually was cut from public education. The Liberal government refused to negotiate with the teachers on class sizes and composition. Later, Bill 22 was introduced which not only prohibited teachers from bargaining those key issues, but also imposed a two-year wage freeze. Despite the BC Supreme Court ruling that the bargaining rights of teachers were to be reinstated, the key issues concerning our teachers have yet to be resolved.
Post-Secondary Education
In 2002, the Liberal government deregulated tuition fee increases. As a result, students are currently paying more that twice the amount they would have to pay if tuition fees only increased at the rate of inflation. On top of that, BC offers the lowest level of non-repayable student financial aid of any province. This leaves the average BC student with a burden of $27,000 in debt.
The Housing Crisis
At least 116,000 people are in a state of housing crisis. There are 11,000 visibly homeless, and 40,000 sleep with family, in cars, or couch surf. In addition, 65,000 are at risk of homelessness because they spend more than 50 per cent of their income on rent.
The Liberal's policies are not only anti-poor, they are also racist. The Social Housing Coalition reports that “Aboriginal people constitute at least 30 per cent of the homeless population in the Greater Vancouver regional district, even though Aboriginal peoples make up only four per cent of the general population.” Similarly, the gentrification of Vancouver's East Hastings area displaces mostly poor non-White communities.
Transit and Road Projects
The Liberals have prioritized roads over mass transit. They have spent billions to build the widest bridge in Canada – the new ten lane Port Mann Bridge into Vancouver. They are also pushing an expansion from four to six lanes on the Pattullo Bridge connecting New Westminster and Surrey. At the same time, the Liberals acknowledge that TransLink’s current funding levels are inadequate to carry out the transit expansion needed in the Lower Mainland. Meanwhile Translink announced in October of last year that it will scale back services.
Oil and LNG
The Liberals have not opposed the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline projects.
The Liberals are champions of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry. As Premier Christy Clark said, “It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but we need to seize it. We have to make sure we can capture this moment.” Their January budget estimated that the planned five new liquefied natural gas plants will garner revenues for the province of between $130 billion and $260 billion over 30 years. The Liberals claim LNG is clean energy despite the fact that the entire process from extraction to transport creates amounts of greenhouse gases rivaling those in the coal and oil industries. A commitment to LNG is a commitment to climate change.
After they're gone
The Liberals describe themselves as the “free enterprise coalition” - they are bought and paid for by the 1%. Their almost certain defeat by the NDP will be a joy to behold, but we need to build mass movements to force the new BC government to repair the damage the Liberals have done. The movement that has been built against the tar sands pipelines shows that this is possible. The state of our schools, hospitals and environment shows that it is necessary.
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