But, regardless of how light their platform is, its only fair that we take a proper look at it, no? What direction will John Cummins and the rest of the BC Conservative team (which includes another former Alliance MP and a guy that recently ran for the leadership of the Christian Heritage Party of BC, now hilariously led by 2009's Conservative leader Wilf Hanni) take BC if given the chance to form a government?
First stop is under the header "BC's Future," where the Conservatives lament the depopulation of British Columbia:
Our province has become less attractive to newcomers from elsewhere in Canada. In seven of the last 15 years, interprovincial immigration has been negative – meaning that more people have left British Columbia to find high-wage jobs elsewhere in the country, than have come to the Pacific coast from other provinces.
Many of those Canadians moving to other, fast-growing provinces are young people. B.C. residents, meanwhile, are growing older. In 2011 our median age was 41.1 years, the highest of any province west of Quebec.
Nearly all of the newcomers to B.C. over the last several decades are new Canadians, from Asia, South Asia and the Pacific region. Most settle in the Lower Mainland, even as the rural and northern regions of British Columbia are losing population.
Budgetary deficits have become commonplace – even though successive governments have passed three balanced budget laws to make fiscal shortfalls illegal. (p.1)
Uh... okay? Not that anything said was wrong, but am I the only one put off by the awkward wording? It starts off talking about how other Canadians don't want to immigrate to BC (bad), then goes into budgetary matters. In between that is a Wikipedia-like entry about how most immigrants into growing BC are from other countries, and that they're all settling into the Lower Mainland. Its kind of out of place, as its not mentioned again on the opening page. Seriously, the first page makes no other mention about this, but it does make a mention of reversing BC's "decline"... I dunno, its probably just me that thinks its kind of odd.
Moving on, they talk about how BC's deficit is growing, and how its the fault of the lack of attention paid by the NDP and Liberals to the Balanced Budget Acts that have been passed over the years, noting that "... Victoria has recorded just six surplus budgets, compared to 17 deficits" (p.2). I've got no bone to pick here, except the intention is obvious that the Conservatives wish to make the current Balanced Budget and Ministerial Accountability Act much more strict. 'Cause BC will avoid a deficit just because the Premier says so. Right.
Then the platform has the header "Fair Taxes," but simply rants about BC's relatively small carbon tax. You really get the sense from it that they're not going to go after the urban voters this election.
Then we get to the header "Rural BC," and the platform talks about... BC's declining population again? I suppose this helps put the earlier statement into more context:
What I find amusing is the notion of how its "troubling" that immigrants to BC prefer to move to the large city with their brethren and access to services, over moving to the Interior and North. But, OK, I get it. The Conservatives wish to pander to the voters in the Interior by reversing the population decline. Alright. Its just amusing that I've never heard of this being an issue before. Whatever.
Over the last quarter-century – actually, since Expo ‘86 – B.C. has enjoyed a steady influx of new residents from elsewhere in the world, notably from Asia and South Asia.
The average annual gain from international immigration for British Columbia in recent years has been about 40,000 people.
Yet, despite being a positive factor for the province as a whole, almost every new Canadian opts to live in the Lower Mainland.
Even as Metro Vancouver seems to be bursting at the seams, the rural and northern regions of the province have experienced population losses.
It is ironic, at best – and troubling, at worst – that newly-arrived British Columbians are settling in the Lower Mainland while more-remote areas of the province are losing population.
Unfortunately, successive governments – both New Democratic Party and BC Liberal – seem to be either oblivious or unconcerned by the issue.
The BC Conservatives are pledged to ensuring a re-balance between urban and rural British Columbia – to making northern and remote regions of the province attractive to newcomers.
It is time to halt and reverse the ongoing population decline in B.C.’s rural areas. (p.4)
The next few pages are your standard sort of political talking points, with nothing too controversial. The platform decries BC falling behind the rest of Canada in average weekly wages (yeah, don't get excited - they aren't proposing a minimum wage increase), promoting better skills training and decrying temporary foreign workers, agriculture, increasing spending for the police, more bashing of the NDP and Liberals on finances, etc. Yawn.
Then we get to p.14, which is the platform's big on Northern BC (not to be confused with Rural BC?), and it reads like another bloody Wikipedia entry. It basically gives an overview of the history of Northern BC's population increases, then shifts back to another bit about how the Conservatives want to reverse the decline and so on. I was suspicious, so I decided to check it for plagiarism - nope, its apparently unique content. Someone wrote it like that on purpose. Odd.
The platform continues on about a range of topics, from education to healthcare to natural resources, and the one thing I'm getting from this document that I could craft up overnight (and actually have, at one point) is that it is so bloody boring. I commend the platform for trying to explain what the problem is, background is always nice, but it would be nice to know what they're going to do about it. The most we get are promises to "review" the dastardly policies of the Liberal and NDP governments. What direction will said review take? No freaking idea.
Sigh. Is there hope for this platform before I fall asleep?
"The BC Conservative Plan for Fiscal Accountability"
A plan? A plan! Finally! Whats in this plan that you should've mentioned a dozen pages ago?
1. More "Votes" Before Expenditures Are Made
"... as outlined above, legislative scrutiny of those fast-rising government expenditures has been dramatically and fundamentally weakened. B.C.’s MLAs need to spend more time debating - and scrutinizing - government spending." (p.22)Uh... ok? So the very first step in your plan for better accountability is to have more... votes? What if there's a majority government? Does it really matter then? I mean, look at your federal cousins. No matter how many votes taken, they could push through everything. Hm. But, fair enough. What next?
2. A New Legislative Budget Office
Like the PBO. Good idea, not very original but good idea. This should've been first, just fyi.
3. Historic Change Proposed to Legislative Calendar
Basically, they want to put in standing committees that would review stuff - one to examine ministry expenditures, another would oversee Crown corporations, another... uh, I dunno. These committees would sit a lot. Its a surprisingly detailed plan that makes some sense, though it should be run by Kady O'Malley just in case.
Then... the platform ends.
So, out of your entire platform, BC Conservatives, you only have one detailed plan. One. Really?
Its not even a bad plan, but its the only part of the entire document where you have detail!
No, sorry, there is a lot of detail in the document, but most of it is backgrounder I could've gotten off of Wikipedia. It isn't even "long on philosophy," as there is almost zero talk about the BC Conservative's philosophy in 28-pages. Instead, what is talked about are vague references about what you'd do in government with no hint of what direction you'd actually take. You decry the Liberal's spending, but I see no spending plans here! I see promises to reduce the deficit, better health care is mentioned, and so is your obsession with "BC's declining population" - yet I see no targets and no mention of how you're going to go about these things.
This isn't a platform - this is a collection of bullet points someone put down on a napkin and filled out with backgrounder and useless facts. This already skimpy document is almost 80% filler, I'm serious.
Why? Did you just want to be first? I get that. But, come on. There's a big difference between putting out a document that is a bit lightweight because you want to be purposefully vague, and putting out a rushed document like this one is. It's just filler, guys. No one is going to take you seriously with this document. They'll fall asleep halfway through.
What a disappointment.