As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve fairly recently returned to Canada from Southeast Asia, where I lived in Indonesia for the best part of a decade. There I worked as a writer, specialising in social and political commentary and analysis, as well as a university teacher of writing, journalism, communications, and related subjects.
For some fairly serious personal reasons, with which regular readers will again be familiar, it has taken me some time to become immersed once more in the world of politics. Canadian political observation and analysis is, at first glance, a whole different experience from doing similar work in Indonesia.
Initially, the political scene in Canada seems bland by comparison to the fiery, volatile world of Indonesian politics: no murder trials and allegations of frame-ups of leading corruption investigators, no obvious vote rigging in national elections, no war criminals vying for the hearts and minds of the people, no ex-dictator’s sons being sentenced to a four-year golfing holiday for the contract murder of a supreme court judge, and having their sentence reduced by the sitting head of government; hell, in most jurisdictions we have fewer than five serious political parties among which to choose, not hundreds.
Nevertheless one soon comes to realise that Canadian politics – even British Columbian provincial politics – has a great deal of intrigue, lying, corruption, subversion of the democratic process, colourful scandals; in short, everything that makes a political analyst sit down at the keyboard and click on the thesaurus function when running out of synonyms for “outrageous”. So as I get more deeply immersed in the daily news and have a little more time to research the local political history of the years I spent abroad, my old familiar hobbyhorses begin to make their appearances and I start to reach for my saddle in preparation of climbing aboard to ride them again.
This blog has a new label: “BC Politics” and it will soon be joined by “Canadian Politics”.
Among the more interesting ongoing stories in BC politics is the current (Liberal) government’s introduction of the controversial and roundly despised Harmonised Sales Tax (HST). The tax is intended to combine the long-despised 7% national Goods and Services Tax (GST) with the 5% BC Provincial Sales Tax. Seems like a good idea, right? Couple of problems, though. In the first place the current Liberals won the last provincial election on a campaign that featured the clear position of being against the HST; they began work on imposing it on the province within moments of being sworn in.
The main objection to the HST however, is that somehow in the transition to the new tax, a great number of hard-won and precious former provincial tax exemptions will now become taxable. The Liberals have been recalcitrant about telling the people what will now be taxable among our former exemptions and have recently released a partial list of items formerly tax-free but now to be subject to the HST. The list includes children’s clothing, over the counter medicine, business travel, home repair services, books and subscriptions, and a host of products and services that previous governments, even previous Liberal ones, have struggled mightily to keep exempt for the people of the province.
The three last Solicitors General of the province under the Liberals have had to resign because they were being investigated by the RCMP, for things ranging from flagrant abuse of their driving records to campaign irregularities and conflict of interest. Currently two senior political aides are on trial for abuse of power and accepting bribes in a multimillion dollar sale of a railway. A sale, incidentally that was engaged upon immediately after Liberal leader Gordon Campbell was elected Premier on an earlier go-around, during which he had clearly promised as part of his election campaign not to carry out.
Meanwhile a lawsuit by a special investigator appointed to oversee the welfare of children at risk in the province has recently seen the judge determine that the current government broke the law when the cabinet refused to allow her access to pertinent documents citing “cabinet confidentiality”, the very stumbling block her function was created to avoid. Adding insult to injury, the Campbell government then proposed sweeping legislation retroactively restricting her access to documents she requires to carry out the audits and investigations that are her raison d’etre.
Campbell himself is often unavailable for comment, seeming to be fond of “fact finding” lengthy European trips and foreign personal vacations. And, of course, relatively early in his mandate, Campbell himself was arrested and convicted on one of those Hawaiian vacations for drunken driving.
No, there is no dearth of political scandal and misbehaviour in British Columbia.
At the moment, so incensed is the public that in a matter of days, a petition urging the scrapping of the HST is likely to teach and exceed the threshold required by law for the petition to have legal validity. The legislation to permit the legal status of such a petition was introduced in the cynical knowledge that the threshold was so onerous that it would be virtually impossible to reach: it must be signed by 10% of the registered voters of every constituency in the province. The petition is expected to achieve 15%;. That is more than the voter turnout at some general elections in some of those ridings.
There will therefore be more commentary and analysis on politics. In My View will continue to look at the foibles of our leaders and our society as time goes on. Please keep checking in regularly just to keep in touch, and please don’t hesitate to comment!
It’s good to be back!