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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 6, April 2005

Liberal values

A wealthy entrepreneur once said, "Money is a way of keeping score." It is interesting to check the score by looking at some of the financial decisions the B.C. Liberals made once they came to power in 2001.

The Liberals cut taxes mainly for the wealthy and corporations. The 8,000 people with the highest income in the province receive $200 million a year, thanks to the tax cut.

The Liberals increased the pay of deputy ministers by 32%. The heads of crown corporations had pay increases as high as 750%.

Paying people not to work

Gordon Campbell made a lot of changes at the taxpayers’ expense. The Vancouver Sun reported on July 27, 2001, that the new government had fired 170 people and spent over $9 million on severance pay. Since that report there has been at least another $3 million to pay people not to work for the government. Here are a few examples:

  • Lecia Stewart, president of the Millenium Sky Train Project: fired; received $402,000 in severance.
  • Jaap Tuinman, CEO of the Open Learning Agency: fired; received $430,000 in severance.
  • Chris Haynes, former Ministry of Children and Families deputy minister: received $289,000 severance and $233,000 in accumulated vacation pay as a result of the Doug Walls scandal. Total payout: $522,000.
  • Nick Geer, president and CEO of ICBC: forced to leave; received $477,000 in severance.
  • Bob Smith, CEO of the Fraser Health Authority: fired; received $323,000, equivalent to one year’s salary.

The Liberals have spent at least $12 million to pay people not to do their job.

Cutting the pay of the people who work

Although the Liberals promised not to privatize healthcare, that has been one of their major projects. Thousands of support staff jobs at hospitals have been privatized, and the pay for those jobs has been cut in half. Jobs that once paid $18 an hour are now paying between $9 and $10.

The workers who did not have their jobs privatized have had their pay cut by 15%. By defying a court order to return to work, the workers stopped a retroactive wage cut and the privatization of another 6,000 jobs. The Liberals tried to compare the work performed by the Hospital Employee Union members to that of hotel staff, but concern is growing about security, rates of infections, quality of food, and the cleanliness of our hospitals.

The score appears to be slightly lopsided, in favour of those who least need government support.

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