Strategic Thoughts

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December 13, 2004

Update: It only took until December 14th for this year's Christmas surprise. Gary Collins resigned as Finance Minister and MLA forcing a small but significant cabinet shuffle.

2004 in Review

Soon planes will be leaving with politicians on annual trips to Hawaii, and British Columbians will brace themselves for what could be the third year in a row with a major scandal at Christmas. No one knows what it might be, but surprise is the best part of opening the presents under the tree. While we wait for this year's goodies, in the time honoured tradition, a review of 2004 is in order. The review shows a government that appears to have run out of ideas.

January: The year started with Finance Minister Gary Collins rushing back from Maui to deal with the crisis in his office over the police raid on the legislature and the seizure of documents from his assistant, David Basi. Almost a year later, questions surrounding the reasons for the raid remain unanswered.

Gordon Hogg resigned as Minister of Children and Family Development over controversy surrounding the role of Doug Walls in his Ministry. A subsequent investigation found Hogg innocent of any wrong doing, but Campbell didn't return him to cabinet.

February: The Sierra Legal Defense Fund obtained documents through freedom of information revealing that the Campbell government returned $2.3 million in fines and rents to fish farms that had violated environmental regulations.

As required by the legislative calendar, Finance Minister Garry Collins tabled his budget on the third Tuesday in February. Subsequent events, including a $2 billion surplus, have shown that it probably wasn't necessary for him to proceed with his third year of cuts to services. In addition to the cuts made in the first two years, a further $803 million was cut from 14 Ministries including a cut of $70 million to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The Campbell government implemented its two year maximum welfare rule, but it also introduced 25 exemptions from the rule. Too stubborn to admit it was wrong, the 25th exemption it added was for anyone looking for work, something that has always been required.

March: Surrey-Whalley MLA Elayne Brenzinger resigned from caucus and blasted Campbell in a news release, only to disappear and not make herself available to the news media. The hottest part of the story was an admission by caucus whip Kevin Krueger that MLAs were routinely suspended from caucus but who, when and what for is kept secret.

April: Province columnist Mike Smyth broke the story that the contract for disposing of BC Rail involves a 990 year lease - 90 years plus 15 extensions of 60 years each. Every 60 years the government has the option of buying it back at prevailing market prices.

May: In response to the privatization of the administration of Pharmacare and MSP, BC's Freedom of Information Commissioner began an investigation into the impact of the US Patriot Act on privacy in BC.

June: The River Rock casino opened in Richmond, marking a major expansion in gambling. Other locals casinos also switched to operating 24/7.

July: To the surprise of many polling companies, Paul Martin came out of the federal election with a minority government.

August: BC Ferries proceeded with contracts to purchase new ferries in Germany despite pleas from local mayors and some government backbenchers. The first to break ranks, Dan Jarvis, now faces a challenge for his nomination.

Government launched its massive TV ad campaign with the slogan "BC is the best place on earth" and refused to disclose the cost of the ads.

September: Christy Clark, the only woman to wield power in the Campbell cabinet, announced she was stepping down as Minister of Children and Family Development, and that said she would not seek re-election.

October: The Campbell government announced further gambling expansion with online betting.

The NDP's Jagrup Brar swept the Surrey-Panorama Ridge by-election with 53.6% of the vote. The Liberals only took 33.4%, and the Greens dropped to 8.4% with leader Adriane Carr as their candidate.

November: Susan Brice, Minister of Human Resources, dismissed evidence that 1 in 5 BC children live in poverty.

Garry Collins, Minister of Finance, released the Second Quarterly Report showing a likely surplus of $2 billion based primarily on $1 billion in federal equalization payments.

December: Ipsos-Reid released a poll showing the Campbell Liberals and the NDP in a statistical dead heat.

New Years Day 2005 is just 137 days until the election on May 17th. Some say the campaign won't kick off until after the budget speech on February 15th, others believe the campaign started last summer with the government ad campaign. Political pundits will have a wonderful New Year watching the parties slowly unveil their campaign strategies.


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