March 27, 2012
BY-ELECTIONS SET FOR APRIL 19…
Two long-delayed by-elections have been called for April 19. Voters in Chilliwack-Hope and the Port Moody-Coquitlam will vote
that day to fill vacancies in the BC Legislature.
A new poll released just as Premier Christy Clark finally announced the two by-elections indicated that if a provincial election were
held now, the BC Liberals would be lose all but 10 seats in the legislature. Just 21% of respondents in the phone survey by Forum
Research said they would vote for the Liberals, placing the governing party in a tie with John Cummins’ Conservatives.
The news came even before Liberal MLA and former solicitor general John Van Dongen who holds the Abbotsford South riding
next door to Chilliwack–Hope will cross the floor to join the BC Conservatives.
Forty-seven per cent of survey respondents said they’d vote for the NDP, which pollsters calculate would put them in line to win 75
of 85 seats in the legislature, reported CTV news. Opposition leader Adrian Dix says the results reflect a failure of the Liberals’
“out of control” attack ads aimed at him and his party in addition to a rejection of the Liberal government’s approach to governing
BC. “I think people want to choose positive politics,” Dix told CTV news. “I’m not running personal attack ads… the premier
apparently thinks that’s going to work for her and we’ll see how that goes.”
The Forum poll even suggests the Liberals have botched their handling of the ongoing teachers’ dispute, with more than half of
respondents disapproving of the government’s back-to-work legislation, Bill 22. Only one-third of respondents supported the
legislation, which imposes a cooling-off period preventing teachers from striking for six months, as well as changes to class sizes
More respondents disapproved of Education Minister George Abbott’s job performance than BC Teachers’ Federation president
Susan Lambert’s, at 56% and 46% per cent respectively.
… AS CLARK STUMBLES THROUGH ANOTHER BAD WEEK
By the time BC Premier Christy Clark finished a news conference called on Thursday to reveal the date for by-elections to fill
vacancies in the ridings of Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope, she had angered Metro Vancouver mayors, mistakenly
thrown into doubt the near-term future of a planned rapid transit extension and made her party’s already uphill odds of winning
either vote even more remote, says Globe & Mail columnist Gary Mason.
The Premier was asked about $30-million in funding that Metro Vancouver mayors want for a raft of transit-related initiatives. The
mayors had said that unless the province passed legislation allowing them to raise that money through means such as a vehicle levy,
they would have to raise property taxes.
“But out of nowhere,” writes Mason “– certainly mayors didn’t know this was coming – Clark said the $30m would have to be
found through an audit of TransLink. She further muddied the waters when she said the $30m was to address a shortfall in funding
for the Evergreen line. This created enormous confusion and the impression that the previously agreed upon financing plan for the
Evergreen line was in doubt.”
But it wasn’t. A $40m funding gap that once existed for the transit extension was earlier addressed with a two-cent-a-litre gas tax.
Clark’s sudden announcement came after she almost derailed the $1.4-billion project last summer when she spoke out against a
carefully-crafted deal between her own government and TransLink to close the final gap in funding via an increase in the gas tax.
She backed down a few days later after Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom intervened to set the record straight.
Clark’s whole point in revisiting the Evergreen Line Thursday was to set the stage for the news that she was opposed to the latest
proposal for a new funding source for Trans-Link, namely a proposed vehicle levy or regional carbon tax. But let the premier
herself tell it, since the actual words she used were relevant to what happened next:
“There’s still a funding gap for the Evergreen Line there – $30m – and we are going to find that through an audit to TransLink.
TransLink is a $1b organization. We’re not going to find it through a vehicle levy or other sources. We are going to find it within
TransLink. Whenever you look at a big organization that spends $1 billion a year, you can find savings. So that’s how we’re going to
close the gap and make sure this Evergreen Line gets built.”
Alas for Clark, the $30-million gap had nothing to do with the Evergreen Line, which is fully funded. It was for other projects; once
again the premier had demonstrated her inadequate grasp of a major file.
“A slip of the tongue,” was the way press secretary Sara MacIntyre, in an interview with CTV News, excused the premier’s two
erroneous references to the Evergreen Line. But Peter Fassbender, Langley mayor and vice-chair of the Trans-Link mayors’
council, saw it differently. “She has never talked to me,” he said. “I’m never surprised at things the premier says. I think she makes
decisions in isolation.”
COLLEGES SAY CUTS WILL HURT STUDENTS
Twenty-five BC universities and colleges have asked the Liberal government to outline the impact cuts to post-secondary education
budgets will have on the growing skills shortage in the BC workforce.
Liberal advanced education minister Naomi Yamamoto has repeatedly claimed that cuts to post-secondary institutions would not
translate into service cuts for students. But a letter signed by university and college presidents says “it is unrealistic to assume that
the reductions contemplated by Budget 2012 can be achieved without implications for service levels.”
STEELWORKERS TAKE RAW-LOG CONCERNS TO PORT ALBERNI
Ensuring British Columbia creates more local jobs from our province’s own resources will take centre stage on Thursday, Mar. 29
in Port Alberni as Steelworkers host a town-hall meeting on raw-log exports.
“British Columbians are tired of seeing our province’s resources used to enrich foreign competitors, when we could be creating jobs
here at home. We invite union members and the public in Port Alberni to come together to learn more, share their views and send a
message that it’s time to put our province first,” says Steve Hunt, Director of USW District 3.
The event will also feature special guests Barry O’Neill, President of CUPE BC and Michelle Laurie, President of IBEW local 258.