I had just sat down for dinner in Hitacu, at a Ucluelet First Nation banquet November 12, when someone I hadn’t yet met, but looked very familiar, sat down across from me.
It was provincial Finance Minister Carole James.
How fortuitous, I thought. I’d written about the former NDP leader many times in editorials, and shared my opinions on her party’s fiscal finance ideology. Now, here she was, sitting right in front of me, for an hour or so. Slowly and gently, I asked questions, then shared my thoughts with James. And, for the record, “my thoughts” in regards to the NDP governments’ handling of the province’s finances are shared by many, many business people – who have been negatively affected by the same.
I had reached out, several times, to James directly via email, only to run into “gatekeepers” who provided benign, off-putting, non-answers to direct questions regarding the NDP’s apparent plan to reduce the price of BC residential real estate “20-30 per cent”, which James had reportedly told a Kelowna businessperson within the year. The staffer didn’t confirm or deny the conversation, and although the percentage wasn’t confirmed, James did later say publicly that, in effect, reductions in the cost of real estate would be a good thing, as it would make it more affordable. Which is true – but that doesn’t take into account the hit that homeowners would take in terms of their number one nest egg, one which in many cases forms the backbone of their retirement income plans.
In a separate column, I wrote about how juvenile and overly simplistic the idea was – that a combination of raising the minimum wage and lower housing prices would make house purchasing a possibility for those working in non-skilled labour positions. That has rarely, if ever, been the case. House buying jobs are generally from the skilled, trained labour and management/ownership employment pool.
What makes housing more affordable is more supply, and as the NDP and their philosophical soulmates on civic councils continue their traditional fights against development, that keeps the number of housing units low, driving up the price. It’s very simple economics. The simplest, really. Supply and demand.
I digress. . .
Carole James is a nice woman, and easy to talk to. After introducing myself by name to her, I mentioned that the Vancouver Sun was suggesting that the NDP should consider running deficits in light of plunging provincial revenues. She responded that would be “like putting the hen in charge of the hen house”, and we both laughed.
A few minutes later I asked her what, if anything, her government was going to do in regards to the struggling forest industry and stumpage rates (for log extraction). She replied with the predictable NDP response about “raw logs” and “secondary manufacturing”, and added if they adjusted stumpage rates the United States would protest, complaining about subsidization.
All standard NDP fare. But another non-answer that indicated only that no changes would be forthcoming.
I didn’t want to get into a lengthy discussion with James on any of the topics, which I’ve written about on several occasions, thinking neither of us would be interested in overriding dinner with political arm-wrestling.
She then asked if I was in finance, and I told her we owned the Business Examiner. She knew of it, and the conversation, while still cordial, became more guarded.
Not wanting to push too hard, I thought I’d take one more opportunity to appeal to James. I offered that the economy under BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark basically ran on “auto pilot”, and asked if there was anything particularly dynamic in terms of policy that Clark introduced to stimulate growth. She couldn’t think of anything, and chuckled. We agreed.
Then I said: “So why doesn’t your government do the same? You could have left the economy alone, and spend the surpluses on projects that your government wants to, like affordable housing, hospitals. . .Why do you always think you have to tinker with the economy?”
She listened and was quiet, but didn’t answer.
I shared about a lengthy meeting I had with then NDP leader Adrian Dix with MLA Doug Routley prior to the election he was expected to win, but lost to Clark. I started by stating that since the NDP doesn’t understand finance, why don’t they try this: Get an expert from outside the party to run the finance department should they become government.
They couldn’t lose, for if that person was successful, it was their idea. And if they failed, the NDP could blame them. Of course they didn’t form government, and who knows if Dix would have gone down that road. I doubt it very much, because if there’s one thing about the ruling bourgeoisie of the NDP, they do think they’re smart, and of course their economic ideas are better than those of free enterprisers.
Yet here the NDP is again, tinkering with an engine that didn’t need fixing at all, with the same old policies that crippled BC in the 1990’s – and some new ones tossed in. Surely they can’t be surprised they’re getting the same results.
Died in the wool NDPers seem to have a strong aversion, perhaps even an inability, to listen and consider any idea that comes from the other side of the philosophical divide that opposes their doctrine. They refuse to listen, or learn.
I would flatter myself to think that James would listen to me any more than any other business person who has complained about the NDP’s punitive, anti-business and growth policies and taxation, and its negative impact on the economy.
But one can only hope.