Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Liberal Government version of I’ve got a secret could prove costly to the Premier’s dwindling credibility

Colin Hansen, our Liberal Finance Minister has done a remarkable job of shooting himself in the foot, what with his revelation that he had been informed by a senior Finance Minister official (the Deputy Finance Minister of all people) that the original deficit forecast was going to be off by a few hundreds of millions of dollars, mainly thanks to a decline in resource fortunes.

The bad financial news was first apparently delivered a few months ago, in what Hansen calls a casual conversation or an aside as he puts it . Judging by the fancy dancing over the last twenty four hours on this one, it seems felt that the surging deficit problem wasn’t something that needed to be shared with the Premier at the time, at least if we try to piece together the timeline of all of this.

Mr. Hansen says that he first heard word of a growing deficit in the middle of the election campaign which of course culminated in mid May, the Premier on the other hand says he first heard word of the growing problems with a deficit towards the end of the campaign, oh maybe a week before it ended or so. If so, then it wouldn’t seem a stretch to think that Mr. Hansen must have know of the financial trouble back in April (mid campaign) well before the Premier says he heard of it in that week before voting day.

Regardless of who knew what and when, neither men nor anyone else around a caucus table at that time felt the need to share that small detail of financial trouble with the general public, better known we suspect as those pesky voters, who after all may have mis-interpreted a deficit and a revised financial picture as something of interest in the campaign.

The Premier finds himself in a situation now where he must surely question the ability of his Minister to handle the portfolio. After all if his own Finance Minister didn’t feel that the situation was serious enough at the time to share the bad news early on with the Premier and in effect left him high and dry to keep on with the good news agenda during the campaign, then one wonders if he can effectively be counted on to steer us through the financial storm we seem to have stumbled upon.

What’s particularly confusing about all of this secretive deficit stuff is had the Liberals been up front about it all during the campaign we believe they most likely would still have won the election (perhaps with a smaller majority) but more importantly been well positioned to do the things that they now say are needed to return the province to growth.

Instead with their surprise announcement of the adoption of the HST, their continually revised thoughts of deficit financing (which at one time according to their own law we aren’t supposed to have) they now find themselves bogged down trying to cover their flanks from attacks that seem more than a little justified.

British Columbians, long used to governments of the day that sometimes cloud the truth with silver linings and grandiose ambitions not steeped in reality, would most likely have cut Campbell and Hansen a little slack over the economy, realizing that this recession is a world wide problem and no government can accurately predict the turns it is taking.

Now with what many feel is a clear example of evasion, whether planned or by happenstance, the plain denial of the simple facts of the day or just the clear lack of common sense that seems to have dogged them both, many British Columbians might just prefer to cut the two of them loose.

After all that old adage made famous in the 1800's by Ralph Waldo Emerson holds true to this day it seems, "Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing."

On this file, the Premier and his Finance Minister have come more than a little short on both.

Northern View-- The deficit was how big?
Vancouver Sun-- What they knew and when
Vancouver Province-- Hansen's silence on deficit speaks volumes
Victoria Times Colonist-- Liberals hammered over who knew what and when
Globe and Mail-- B.C. Liberals say they knew revenues were sinking
The Tyee-- Hansen knew during election revenues were off
CBC-- B.C. Liberals defend timing of budget deficit
CTV BC-- BC Liberals accused of deception during election
Photo above from CTV website

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