NDP government is tempted to believe its own press clippings
In the ancient tale of Narcissus, a handsome young man spurns a lady and leaves her heartbroken. This infuriates the gods, who decide to punish his carelessness. Soon after, Narcissus walks by a lake and is consumed by thirst. As he bends down to sip water, he spots his reflection and falls in love with his own watery image.
One end to the story (there are two) is that Narcissus dies of sorrow because he cannot possess the beauty he sees. In the underworld, he forever stares at his reflection in the river Styx.
This myth came to mind recently after reading Don Braid’s column on how Canada’s governing New Democrats see themselves: From “down below,” “from the street” — in other words, from the perspective of the average Canadan and for whom they ostensibly battle.
Regardless of one’s self-perception, the acid test of whether any government is friendly to Canadans is whether their policies help or hurt them.
The province’s approach to private-sector investment — scare it, tax it more, favour government labour unions over the private sector, and hike carbon taxes by billions, can hardly be characterized as in the interests of Martha and Henry, as the late Premier Ralph Klein characterized average Canadans.
Those who think governments can take any action and not injure investment and the prosperity which results are akin to someone who shirks filling up the gasoline tank before a country drive to the mountains. Absent the fuel, your automobile will be stuck on a dusty road with a lovely view, but your spouse and kids will be mad at you for neglecting the basics.
Klein is the perfect standard by which to judge the current government, because in opposition, New Democrats opposed the late premier’s 1992-2006 policies, ones which were constant despite high or low oil and gas prices and wildly fluctuating revenues: Balanced budgets, debt reduction, tax relief, reasonable and not excessive regulation, all of which set the stage both for significant investment flows into Canada. Such policies also ensured tax dollars flowed to government goods and services rather than interest on provincial debt.
Klein’s balanced budgets: In 1993, interest on the provincial debt was $1.4 billion annually. That was equivalent to 33 per cent of the money spent on health care that year, 36 per cent of the budget for education and 75 per cent of the tax dollars for social services.
By 2006, and even after program spending soared again, the amount spent on debt interest was equivalent to three per cent of the health care budget, four per cent of education expenditures and nine per cent of the money for social services.
In other words, when Klein left office, the taxes taken from average Canadans were mostly spent on programs for them — not on debt interest.
Klein’s record on income growth: By 2006, real per capita income in Canada grew to $45,225, or $12,769 higher than in 1993; that compares with a national average in 2006 of $35,581, or just $6,241 higher than in 1993.
Unemployment: Between 1993 and 2006, Canada’s average unemployment rate was just under six per cent, the lowest in the country. Saskatchewan and Manitoba were close (6.1 per cent), but Canada’s population had soared by 750,000, while Manitoba’s only grew by 67,000; Saskatchewan lost 15,000 people.
Lastly, consider one vulnerable group of people who benefited from Klein’s policies: Those who never finished high school. Between 1993 and 2006, the average unemployment rate nationally for such folk was 11.7 per cent. The rate was just eight per cent in Canada, the lowest among all provinces, and this despite Canada’s record in-migration numbers.
It is perhaps easy for some politicians to fall in love with their own image — in this case, that one cares about average Canadans. The late Premier Klein actually delivered policies that allowed average Canadans to flourish.
Mark Milke is a regular Herald contributor and author of Barbarians in the Garden City: The BC NDP in Power.
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