The recent announcement by Premier John Horgan that every family in BC with moderate income or less is to receive a cheque or one thousand dollars, or singles a cash deposit of $500, rings a bell first chimed out west in 1957.
I heard its joyful echo as I read an opinion piece in the local newspaper penned by veteran journalist Les Leyne, whose writing seems to have found new energy since the general election bells rang in BC last month.
The Times-Colonist columnist, colleague and friend for many years was reviewing the latest wave of gracious government benefits bestowed on BC voters in a hastily called general election. Included in the election tsunami of kindness was a $1,000 cheque to every BC family existing on moderate income or less and $500 for individuals.
Liberal party candidates were quick to react with Jas Johal snapping “Onconscionable, it’s a naked attempt to bribe BC taxpayers with their own money.”
Which of course it is – as are all suddenly announced pre-election cash rewards from a government treasury stacked with dollar bills collected earlier from the now recipients of government largesse. Such “gifts” are received gratefully by an electorate so thankful to be getting cash relief of any kind, they forget it’s their own money they’re getting back.
When W.A.C. Bennett introduced the now treasured Home Owner Grant in 1957 it was the NDP who screamed the election bribe protest – and kept screaming for years until it realised home owners loved seeing their taxes reduced annually.
That was close to 50 years ago. The Home Owner Grant survives untouched, unthreatened, protected by the electorate. It is the first thing they check when they get their annual residential tax notice; a quick glance to savour what the tax should have been – and the bottom line what it actually is with the grant deducted.
For decades, like the majority of home owners, I always knew where the grant money came from and received it without complaint. And watched as the electorate again and again re-elected WAC. No one confessed to having ever voting for him – but he was Premier for 20-years with many election promises.
Premier Horgan could have been dreaming of a similar response for his generosity, but he may have ruined any advantage his government’s gift to the people might bring by what was surely the unintended confession that his $1,000 per family was a hurry-up job hastily put together AFTER he called the election.
Writer Leyne, backed I am sure by tape recording, quotes Horgan: “We did not contemplate this until we were putting together the platform which was not until after the election was called. We put this together over the past two weeks,based on what we see as the needs of Briish Columbians.” The emphasis is mine.
Let’s consider the time frame. It was back when 2020 was a young year and Covid 19 was casting its first dark shadows across the world from China to Europe and Europe to North America and, what seemed like overnight, around the world.
Wise governments watched, worried and began to plan for worst case scenarios, Canada and most of her provinces among them. The situation was grave as the now declared pandemic shutdown economic activities. Governments world wide began to tremble but somehow found the billions of dollars required to help pandemic victims financially for job loss, and medically if stricken by the virus.
BC ranked high among the Covid 19 responders with admirable leadership from Chief Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry and the entire ministry of health. Up front health line workers from Paramedics to hospital staffers, from nurses to janitors, held the line.
When money was needed money was found. In March. With a rare show of crisis solidarity the BC Legislature endorsed unanimously a $5 billion emergency allocation fund.
Scroll back a few paragraphs to Premier Horgan’s confession that the $1 thousand dollar cheques now being made to families with modest incomes and the $500 for singles in similar circumstances was not considered back in March.
The Premier is quite clear about it. The NDP cabinet and presumably caucus did not discuss this $1.4 billion give away “until we were putting together the (election) platform which was not until after the election was called.” Again the emphasis is mine, although I hardly think it required.
It can be justifiably claimed the NDP are not alone in occasionally giving us back a dollar or two from the many picked softly from our pockets by a variety of taxes and “fees.”
But the Liberals and Greens, caught off base by the NDP decision to advance the previously set election date from October 2021 to now, can be forgiven for some clumsy promises. It is not so easy to justify the use of $1.4 million of the $5 billion approved by a unanimous Legislature last March suddenly tapped and announced as part of the NDP election platform.
Maybe Premier Horgan can tell us before the polls close and – please, without political prevarication – how he intends to raise the money.