Local 3570

Local 3570

Blaming the Commies for the Current Crisis


Blaming the Commies for the Current Crisis

Everything was blamed on Castro. Mudslides in California. The fact that you can't buy a decent tomato anymore. Was there an exceptionally high pollen count in Massapequa, Long Island, one day? It was Castro, exporting sneezes.

- Calvin Trillin

Yeah, blame Fidel Castro and the commies for B.C.’s sad-sack economy; that’s the ticket! At least that’s the surprising analysis from Finance Minister Gary Collins.

“Fidel Castro is no longer in power in British Columbia,” Collins told a relieved Vancouver Board of Trade audience February 21, a day after he delivered a provincial budget with a $4.4 billion deficit and a projection to increase debt by $10 billion in 2004-05.

The problem, it seems, is that under NDP premiers Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark and Ujjal Dosanjh, B.C. was seen “as the most hostile place to do business in North America outside of Cuba – actually, maybe even including Cuba,” Collins said. “The damage that had been done to our reputation among investors internationally was severe,” he continued. “One of the key things I felt we needed to do was to start to restore a sense of credibility around the government of British Columbia.”

Credibility might seem a tall order for a politician who believes investing in B.C. for the last 10 years was more difficult than in a communist dictatorship, or who repeatedly and wrongly claimed before the election that tax cuts would pay for themselves, or who embarrassingly inflated B.C. economic growth predictions.

"You can't find an example in Canada where government cut personal income taxes and overall revenues went down and they couldn't pay for their programs," Collins said during the election campaign in April 2001. Unfortunately for Collins, B.C. soon became an example of a government that cut personal income taxes, (by $1.5 billion), saw overall revenues go down and then couldn’t pay for their programs.

Now B.C. has the worst of both worlds – it is axing needed services and firing one-third of all government workers while Collins’ February budget increases taxes by $800 million, more than even Fidelista former finance minister Glen Clark’s first budget.

But wait, there’s more credibility to burn. Collins began his term by rashly predicting in his July 30, 2001, fiscal update that B.C.’s real gross domestic product would grow by a stunning 3.8 percent in 2002, because of the tax cuts, only to revise that number down to a mere 0.6 percent just weeks later.

One also wonders what sort of credibility B.C. gained with foreign investors who read the Globe and Mail and saw noted economics writer Bruce Little’s August 16, 2001, column about the Liberals.

"The new government has begun its stint in office with an economic forecast for the province that is -- there is no kinder way to put it -- sheer gibberish," Little wrote. Little revisited B.C. on February 21 this year, writing that the Liberals’ tax cuts “came back to haunt them” by forcing new tax increases “to keep the province from digging its self-created fiscal hole even deeper,” and advising readers not to bet “big money” on B.C. balancing its budget by 2004-05.

Alternatively, sophisticated investors looking to safely park their cash could be reading the Economist. In a February report that the international weekly magazine subtitled: “A wild gallop to the right causes consternation,” the Economist called Campbell’s cuts a “radical plan” and noted that the Liberals inherited a surplus and then “gave that away in tax cuts, and just at a time when revenues were starting to fall. . . . the province lost more jobs in December than any other in Canada.”

Given the situation, it’s probably not that surprising that Collins would blame “Castro” for his problems. But if he wakes up one morning to look in the mirror and sees a graying, bearded man in military fatigues staring back, Collins will have only himself to blame.


FIDEL CASTRO’S Cuba or Gordon Campbell’s B.C.? Collins comments equating B.C. to Cuba makes for some interesting thoughts. Which one has a government that refuses to recognize an official Opposition? Which forcibly evicts protesters? Which one has a leader who will not admit to any mistakes and requires armed police guards wherever he goes?

Where is the administration that dictates the terms and conditions under which nurses, teachers and government employees will work? And where is the leader whose most trusted advisor is his own younger brother, who may succeed him in office? Cuba or B.C.?


West Star Communications’ President Bill Tieleman has clients in labour, business and non-profits. He is a political commentator on CBC TV's Canada Now and CBC Radio's Early Edition. Email at weststar@telus.net