Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


November 3, 2014

Statement: Respecting the Taxpayer

S. Simpson: It’s an interesting topic: respect for the taxpayer. Let’s look at the reality of B.C. Liberals’ definition of respect for the taxpayer. Let’s start with capital projects. The convention centre. How much respect for the taxpayer was there in the cost overruns? B.C. Place roof. How many hundreds of millions of dollars of respect was there, there in cost overruns? The Port Mann Bridge, the litany. There are billions of dollars of capital cost overruns — not the cost of the projects; the cost of the overruns. Is that respect for taxpayers? Maybe it’s a Liberal definition.

If we don’t want to talk about capital projects, then let’s talk about data systems and information systems. How many hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars got wasted on information systems in this province: either ones that have gone over, dramatically over, in costs — and they’re still trying to figure out how to fix them — or ones like in the education system where the government just threw its hands up and scrapped it and decided to go find something else to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on? Maybe that’s it.

How about all of the P3s of which we now have heard, of course, about how we’re paying interest charges over and above what we should be paying without demonstrable benefit to in fact explain and justify those interest charges? Where are we going with that?

Of course, there are the really stunning issues here, like we saw in the last election, like we’ve heard out of this Premier, like we’ve heard all along: about being debt-free. Remember, that was on the side of the bus. Well, what we have today is record debt in this province, escalating at a rate that we have never seen before.

It’s all Liberal mismanagement, nothing less — Liberal mismanagement. This is a government that has mismanaged taxpayers’ dollars in a way that is extraordinary and beyond anything we have ever seen before — wastes of billions and billions of taxpayer dollars in order to satisfy the fancies of this government. Mismanagement of project after project — that’s what we’ve seen here.

This member wants to talk about the budget. Well, let’s talk about the budget. First of all, we see from the Auditor General a recognition that we have a balanced budget — based on $600 million of assets being sold. Now, we’ve all heard the story, but it rings true. We’ve all heard the story that you don’t sell the silverware to pay the rent. That’s exactly what this government did.

You have a core review process that, it appears, is some secretive little deal being made by the minister responsible, with a handful of colleagues, who pops up every once in a while to pull the pins out of this program or that program — with no coherency, no thought and nothing, it seems, but the whims of a Minister Responsible for Core Review, who has a mean-on, periodically, for different people. That’s reflected in who gets whacked.

That’s taxpayer responsibility, Liberal-style. We all want to respect taxpayers, but you have to have some credibility to do that. There is no credibility in this government when you look at cost overruns, when you look at mismanagement, when you look at how the budget was balanced, when you look at how P3s have become an ideological rather than a pragmatic approach. The list is long, and it is one train wreck after another that we see as we’ve headed down this road.

This is a real problem. It would be good for us all if the government would be clear and coherent about what it actually means to be responsible to taxpayers, because it certainly hasn’t been reflected in the last couple of years — certainly not.

As our debt climbs by billions and billions every year, I suspect, and taxpayers get told what it costs to finance that, when they get told how they’re paying for B.C. Hydro with 28 percent increases to pay for mismanagement of B.C. Hydro through deferral accounts — the list is long; the litany is long — this member should be just a little bit embarrassed to stand up and say “taxpayer accountability” and “B.C. Liberals” in the same breath.

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