Ding, ding let the games begin.
The 39th session of the provincial legislature began on Tuesday in Victoria and it promises to be one of the more explosive and interesting political sessions in this province's history. And that's saying a lot considering the history of politics in this province. Anyone remember the Bill Vander Zalm years? How about Glen Clark or Mike Harcourt?
As is tradition, the session began with the speech from the throne. The speech from Premier Gordon Campbell emphasized steps that he said the government would take to strengthen the economy to create jobs, improve and protect vital services and manage taxpayer dollars prudently to avoid burdening future generations with debt they can't afford.
Campbell and his Liberals have lofty goals and expectations, but can they back up the talk in this throne speech with more positive talk in their new budget set to be announced by Finance Minister Colin Hansen next Tuesday? Early indications are; probably not.
Since the Campbell Liberal's defeated Carole James and the New Democrats in the May 13th election, the Liberals have been reeling from one revelation after another.
First it was the new harmonized sales tax (HST) or hated sales tax as many of the public have referred to it. This little gem has set off a firestorm of opposition both from the NDP and the voters. The Liberals did an exceptionally poor job of explaining the tax and the possible benefits to the economy of this province. During the election campaign they made a commitment to not introduce any further tax legislations. But, after the election, the federal government came calling dangling a $1.6 billion cash cow to help education and health care funding. The catch B.C. had to introduce the HST. So Campbell is now gambling for his political life, pushing forward with the HST plan to gain the federal funds. And the government needs that extra cash more than ever. We've now recently learned that this province could be facing a $3-billion deficit when the budget is announced Sept. 1 a far cry from the predicted $495 million deficit announced by Hansen just a few months ago.
But the HST and the budget are just two bullets the Liberals are trying to deflect. The B.C. Rail scandal continues to dog Campbell after news that sensitive e-mails from the premier's inner circle were ordered destroyed during the election.
There is the possibility that library funding could be cut, along with previously awarded funding grants to charitable organizations. Health care in this province continues to be a challenge. Programs like the Lunch Bunch, a successful program offered through Vancouver Coastal Health here on the Sunshine Coast will be cut, thousands of surgeries will be cut around the province to save millions of dollars in health authority budgets and did I mention the paramedics' strike? That's been going on since April with no sign of a deal or bargaining talks.
James seems like a nice person and has done an admirable job of leading the party. But after she led them to defeat in May many called for her head. Heck, I thought to myself she needed to be replaced if the NDP had any hopes of winning the election, but now, she might have a chance. The Liberals may have done enough damage and given the NDP plenty of ammunition to fire back during question period.
Let the fun and games begin.