It’s fitting that the first debate of the B.C. election took place the day after Fox News fired the bombastic Bill O’Reilly, a big Irish bully who became a U.S. cable news sensation by interrupting and intimidating guests on his talk show.
B.C.’s own big Irish bully, NDP leader John Horgan, put on a similar show at the News1130 studio in Vancouver last week. I lost count of the number of interruptions and shout-downs of B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark.
Legislature reporters have seen this behaviour before, typically directed at one of us. We call these episodes “Hulk Horgan,” and they are the verbal equivalent of a lacrosse player cross-checking an opponent over and over. (Horgan played lacrosse in his day, and now claims he was a goal-scorer, not a fighter.)
Voters, particularly women, should see this and decide for themselves if this guy is premier material. Do a web search for “News 1130 leadership debate,” the action is in the first 32 minutes.
But this isn’t a column about Horgan’s personality. It’s the third in a series looking at party platforms, after the B.C. Green Party’s fiscal fantasy and the B.C. Liberals’ arrogant play to sell a 50 per cent reduction in Medical Services Plan premiums as a “middle class tax cut.”
The NDP copied the B.C. Liberal MSP plan, adding a pledge to eliminate it in four years. Their platform lists MSP revenues continuing for three years, rising to $1.7 billion by the third.
NDP finance critic Carole James briefed reporters in Victoria on the intent to “over four years move it to the progressive tax system.” That can only mean income tax, which was duly reported by me and the Victoria Times-Colonist.
Clark seized on this to begin the debate, framing it as a secret NDP tax grab, prompting the first grimace and flex from Horgan. He denied that James said what she said, but by the end of the week was backing away from that.
In media-speak, James committed a “gaffe,” which means she accidentally blurted out the truth. And even the fractious NDP can’t throw her under the bus, not again. You can still see the tire marks from when the “gang of 13” did in her leadership in 2010.
Replacing MSP with progressive income tax is one of the few sensible promises of the Greens, and if Horgan had owned it, the question would be where the B.C. Liberals will find the billions.
B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Andrew Wilkinson estimates shifting half of MSP onto income tax would cost the average working person $400 a year. After cutting it by half next year, he says they’ll get rid of the rest as the economy and population grow.
Other NDP platform highlights include a plan to build 114,000 housing units “through partnerships, over 10 years.” Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation did the math, using a lowball $200,000 a unit, and noted it comes out to $22 billion, half of the current provincial budget, plus billions more in municipal land.
With their spending spree heading toward Green Party heights, the NDP’s signature $10-a-day child care plan suddenly became an aspiration goal within 10 years. That would be the third term of a Horgan administration.
The energy and forest industries are afterthoughts in the NDP platform, reflecting the usual divisions within the party that is now essentially controlled by its urban anti-industry faction. Specifics like “making B.C. a world leader in engineered wood products” and energy refits to public buildings are already long-time government policies.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @tomfletcherbc