Published On: Monday, 04 December 2017

It’s Not What Governments Say That Matters – It’s What They Do

It’s Not What Governments Say That Matters – It’s What They Do
It takes a while for the verbal haze to dissipate and reveal the real substance behind the rhetoric.

- Mark MacDonald is the Publisher of the Business Examiner News Group, and President of Invest Northwest Publishing.

CANADA - For those of us who have children, we’ve likely learned the hard way, that the statement “don’t do what I do; do what I say” just really doesn’t work.

In reality, our actions carry far more weight than the words we’ve chosen.

That also extends to government. As we listen to federal and provincial governments trumpet, in varying forms, that they are “pro-business”, “open for business” and “supporters of small business”, it takes a while for the verbal haze to dissipate and reveal the real substance behind the rhetoric.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, further-to-the-left than the NDP in some cases, somehow avoided making the business community cringe prior to the last federal election.

Business was jolted awake by the nightmarish, punitive attacks on corporations – aka owners’ retirement plans – and a mass outcry from coast to coast has caused the Liberals to back up. Sort of. Well, who knows if they have, or how much. We really won’t know until the dust settles following weeks of backpedalling by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Here in British Columbia, the NDP has started their “we’re open for business” lobby both near and far, attempting to assuage the genuine fears of what a pro-union, anti-free enterprise government typically brings to any jurisdiction in which they hold power.
While business hopes the GreeNDP coalition’s claims are true, they know full well that it’s what they do on the ground that matters, not what comes out of their mouths.

I watched NDP leader John Horgan rag-doll former Premier Christy Clark in last spring’s election debates, constantly interrupting her, insulting her and calling her integrity into question. If I squinted, I’m almost sure we were watching departed labor boss Jack Munro in televised union negotiations.

Clark’s major accomplishment was defeating the NDP in a shocking vote four years previously. Her only other lasting legacy may still remain, if Site C dam is given the green light to complete by Horgan.

That Clark may have pushed the project past the point of no return reminded me of former Premier Bill Bennett telling me that he signed all the contracts for the Coquihalla Connector from Merritt to then-Westbank, now West Kelowna, before he left office because he knew whoever would come behind him would, or at least could, cancel the project.

I have said for years that Site C dam was the simplest decision in the province, as putting another structure on the twice-dammed Peace River would produce negligible environmental impact while providing long-term economical electricity for a growing BC.

Yet the NDP continues to play political football with the issue. Will they? Won’t they? Should they? Shouldn’t they? And it’s exactly this public debate that creates what business abhors the most: Uncertainty.

Horgan may think he can have his cake and eat it too, by allowing the completion of Site C, yet using it as his personal punching bag. Yes, they allow it, but they didn’t really want to. They “had to”, to avoid millions of dollars in remediation costs and lawsuits from companies that have geared up for the project, only to have it pulled from under their feet. And lost jobs, of course.

The NDP rank and file could be satisfied with a “we had no choice” but to allow it to complete, and a “we tried”, but it just wasn’t economically feasible.

If Horgan takes that route and damns Site C’s completion with faint praise, that is also a major statement to business, which watches the performance and asks: “Why would I put major investment into a region where decisions like this are so politicized and unwanted?”

Petronas pulled out of Northwestern B.C.’s pursuit of Liquified Natural Gas, almost as soon as the GreeNDP stole power in Victoria. Why? Because they listened to both parties’ panning of the LNG industry and their promises of increased taxation and regulations.

So while the GreeNDP says they support the industry on their terms, industry looks at those terms and recognizes they are unworkable. The politicians, again, are able to say they are “open for business”, while at the same time imposing restrictions and introducing handcuffs that make it impossible to do business.

The GreeNDP states they are “pro small business”, and “proved” that by introducing a small reduction in the small business tax. That is on profits, by the way, which becomes instantly more difficult to retain because those same small businesses are about to get whacked by the government’s dog-and-pony province-wide “consultation” march towards the $15 per hour minimum wage.

While it is true that politics makes strange bedfellows, I will never understand how big, non-government, largely resource-based labour continues to blindly pay the freight for the NDP, and manages to somehow co-exist with the all-extraction-of-resources-is-evil Greens.

The NDP’s continual war against “big business” and corporations demonstrates an uncanny ignorance of who actually is affected by such ideological reasoning. It’s not just trades workers who are paid very well by big business, who don’t have jobs if big projects don’t proceed.

It’s also small business, many of those who earn their livings by providing goods and services to those bigger companies and projects. Smaller businesses only pay less to their workers because of smaller revenues, which makes it harder for those employees to buy houses, vehicles, and go on holidays.

The GreeNDP’s solution? Hike the minimum wage, making small business pay more although they are the ones that pay minimum wage because that’s what they can afford. And the small business owner either tries to raise prices to hike revenue, or cut costs by scaling back hours for workers or hiring less.

That’s the real world, ladies and gentlemen.

But at least the politicians can say to their supporters that they’re “pro-business”. Only time will tell, as it always does, that their actions show otherwise.