It is no exaggeration to say that whichever party wins the Oct. 24 election, the face of our province will be altered for years to come. And not in a good way.
If the Greens win, or join a coalition government, their leader Sonia Furstenau is advocating a four-day work week. This is economic suicide.
How can businesses afford to pay their employees a five-day-a-week salary when they work only four days? Or is she proposing a 20 per cent cut in wages?
Furstenau suggested that governments possess tools to help businesses make the transition, but didn’t say what they are.
Realistically, the only way companies can absorb a 20-per-cent reduction in working hours without losing money is to increase productivity by the same amount. Over time, this may be possible.
Historical data show that work-site productivity in Canada increased roughly 20 per cent between 2000 and 2020, though most of that came from job-killing automation.
But Furstenau isn’t proposing a four-day work week 20 years from today. She’s proposing it now.
Then she wants free child care for children under three, and free early childhood education for three- and four-year olds. Plus $350 a month for stay-at-home parents.
No word on how any of this is to be paid for.
Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is promising a one-year suspension of the provincial sales tax, followed by a three per cent tax in year two. The present level is seven per cent.
This too would be ruinous. The government’s deficit stands at $14 billion.
Add Wilkinson’s tax cut, and the deficit rises to $20 billion — a figure never matched, or approached, in our history. He is also proposing to eliminate the two-per-cent income tax on small businesses, at a cost of $220 million.
Then he wants to introduce $10-a-day child care for families with incomes under $65,000. That will add a further $1 billion to the deficit.
Yet Wilkinson insists his package can be paid for without reducing funds to essential services like health and education. This is make-believe, and provably so.
When the B.C. government ran hefty deficits following the 2008 recession, health funding was held below the cost of living for several years. It still hasn’t recovered, one reason wait times for surgery are often so long.
John Horgan, the NDP leader, says he will give $1,000 to every family making $125,000 a year or less, and $500 to every single person making less than $62,000.
Horgan calls this COVID relief. It is, in fact, a bare-faced bribe.
He also wants $10-a-day child care, and billions more for schools and hospitals our tax base can’t support.
In effect, this election has turned into a competition to see which party can throw the most money at the voters, money none of them possesses.
Economists talk about a structural deficit. What they mean by that is a deficit which cannot be retired by any means that a governing party could undertake and hope to survive.
That is where this election is leading us. Despite brave talk about 10-year plans for this, that and the next thing, none of the party platforms looks one day past the election.
None is fully costed. None offers a clue about how it is to be paid for. None takes account of the financial realities facing our province, and where these extravagances will lead us.
In effect, the COVID crisis is being used both as a coverall, and a smoke screen.
As a coverall, it offers a handy excuse for dangling political goodies in front of the voters. Who doesn’t want cheap child care, zero sales tax, or a $1,000 cheque in the mail?
As a smokescreen, it provides a convenient means of focusing purely on the present, and ignoring the future consequences of a short-term pleasure trip.
Elections, as the saying goes, have consequences. The consequences of this election are likely to be the long-term erosion of essential services as the bills come due.
But none of our leaders are looking beyond Oct. 24.
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