Despite promising “fast” action and running on the theme of “Families First,” Christy Clark’s time in office has been chiefly concerned with her indecision about whether she was going to break the Liberals’ own law and call an election.
“You know, when I talk about change, one of the changes people are going to see in government is we are going to move fast.”
Newly elected Liberal Leader Christy Clark (on CHNL), Feb. 25, 2011
Wednesday, Sept. 14 marks exactly six months since Ms. Clark was sworn in as premier, and in those six months, the issues that concern families – health care, education, the economy, the environment and equality – have been largely ignored by the Liberals.
Health Care: Unclear Direction, No Action
During the Liberal leadership campaign, Ms. Clark gained some notoriety by promising to tie future health care spending to the rate of economic growth. After New Democrat leader Adrian Dix – and others – pointed out that such a move would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in cutbacks to health care, Ms. Clark stopped making that commitment. Meanwhile, on issues such as long-term care, doctor shortages in rural northern communities, surgery waitlists and ER over-crowding, Ms. Clark has taken precious few steps to ensure families get the health care where they are and when they need it.
Education: School Districts Subsidize Corporations While Post-Secondary Students are Mired in Debt
School districts, already straining under the restrictions imposed by the Liberals, have been hammered by the government’s requirements to pay for carbon offsets while big polluters like Encana get a subsidy. B.C. school districts paid out more than $6.3 million in carbon offsets, primarily to cover for unavoidable emissions – like heating public buildings. Meanwhile, large emitters get a pass. Ms. Clark has had six months to fix this scheme, but has primarily focussed on often-outlandish photo-ops – like lighting the Olympic torch during the Stanley Cup playoffs – instead.
For post-secondary students, Ms.Clark has done nothing to address rising student debt. B.C. students continue to have the highest average student debt west of the Maritimes.
The Economy: Job Loss Continues
The Liberal focus on the HST only heightened under Christy Clark's leadership. Under her administration, British Columbia’s unemployment rate has been higher than the Canadian average five months out of six and in August the labour market took another turn for the worse. B.C. lost 12,500 full-time jobs but only picked up half that amount in part-time jobs. Furthermore, with an uncertain economy ahead, TD Bank reports that British Columbians are the most vulnerable to an economic shock.
The Environment: Protecting Polluters
Even though the proponent of a mine in the Cariboo, Taseko, had an alternate proposal in the works, one of the first things Ms. Clark did after being sworn in was to call on the Prime Minister to reconsider the federal environmental assessment of the project – a project that would have destroyed Fish Lake. Meanwhile, she has failed to take any steps to protect pristine wilderness in northern British Columbia from the proposed Enbridge pipeline that will send tar sands bitumen from Alberta for shipment to Asia. For the Liberals to be so supportive of a pipeline that crosses countless fish-bearing rivers and streams is hardly environmentally-conscious.
Equality: Ignoring the Gap
With the gap between the rich and poor rising, the premier could have taken an immediate step to help lift working British Columbians out of poverty. Instead, she decided to phase in an increase to the minimum wage – which is still the lowest in Canada and will not reach its $10.25 mark until 2012. Families trying to make ends meet are left to endure the premier’s timeline.
Meanwhile, families of British Columbians with special needs have been devastated by cuts to crucial services they need. The most recent example has seen the government cut off services for people with developmental difficulties as soon as they turn 19, leaving these families in crisis. Premier Clark has so far preferred to support her hand-picked Social Development Minister Harry Bloy – the only caucus member to support her during the leadership race – over the needs of those families. As columnist Paul Willcocks noted on his blog:
“Bloy has hidden from questions from reporters and the public, and since the legislature rarely sits he isn't held accountable there. Any day I expect to see his picture on the side of a milk cartoon. [Reporter Lindsay] Kines asked to talk to the minister for the story, as he and other report[ers] have tried for many articles, and was refused. Instead, communications staff write meaningless emails allegedly from Bloy.”
Paul Willcocks (willcocks.blogspot.com), Sept. 12, 2011
Brash statements and photo-ops are poor substitutes for real leadership from the provincial government. Unfortunately for British Columbians, that’s all they’ve seen from Premier Clark for the past six months.