NDP doesn’t meet standard that they demanded while in Opposition | #socialmedia


Opinion: Bruce Ralston brazenly admitted the order was the opposite of what the NDP used to argue about regulatory independence.

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VICTORIA — When Premier John Horgan was refusing to act on surging gasoline prices last month, he had a suggestion for those who couldn’t afford the price at the pump.

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“I think British Columbians understand that we have in our urban centres sophisticated public transit systems that are options, if prices become too unaffordable in the short-term,” he told reporters last month as prices approached a record $2-a-litre.

Horgan’s off-the-cuff improvisation was quickly translated by his critics into: ” ‘Take the bus,’ says the premier.”

He hasn’t repeated the line.

But it came back to bite him Friday, when he announced those belated ICBC rebates, repackaged as relief from the gasoline prices his government had been disregarding for weeks.

A day earlier, TransLink had approved a 2.3 per cent fare increase effective July 1.

The ICBC rebates were costing $400 million. Had Horgan considered diverting some of that money to provide relief for transit riders in the major urban centres? Their budgets are squeezed by inflationary pressures, same as the owners of electric cars, who are getting the purported relief from the gas tax.

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No such luck replied the premier.

The New Democrats believe TransLink is “operating in the public interest. They need to manage their fleet.”

“They need to manage their fare box to complement the resources they can get through gas taxes and any direct contributions from orders of government.”

Besides, said Horgan, mindful of his earlier gaffe, the government believes the rebates are “the best way forward to ensure we are addressing challenges in areas where there is no access to public transit.”

“We certainly heard loudly and clearly that there are many people who do not have the opportunity to avail themselves of a world-class transit system,” added the premier, which tells you how well his earlier comment went over with the public outside Metro Vancouver and Victoria.

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Still, that left transit riders out in the cold, provoking a memorable email from a Metro transit operator.

“I asked my fellow transit operators, who must live in the nether regions because no one can afford a studio suite in (the city), what they thought about the one-time payment.

“One fellow said that at the current $1.95-a-litre price, the rebate will pay for last week’s commute.

“Another wondered if anyone reminded Horgan that he told us all to go ride the bus.”

The latter made a point of comparison with transit costs: “The rebate covers the cost of a single-zone compass card for just one month.”

The rebate for individual policyholders will be $110 when the cheque arrives in May. A single-zone compass card goes to $102.55 on July 1. Two zones: $137.10. Three zones: $185.20.

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Parting shot from the first operator: “My response was that John Horgan is the kind of guy you invite to barbecue at your place, and he tells you he’ll bring something to help out.

“Then he arrives with a six-pack … and he pops the tab on one of the six when he arrives.”

As news spread of the meagre payouts, most of the feedback was in a similar if less eloquent vein:

The rebates — commercial policyholders will get $165 — were denounced as an “insult,” “highway robbery,” a “pittance,” a “gesture,“ a “stopgap” and so on.

“Underwhelming” was one of the tamest responses. Even the NDP trolls seemed to have gone strangely silent on social media.

It had me wondering how the New Democrats could have delayed so long to act on gasoline prices, then come up with such a feeble response.

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Nevertheless, the government expedited the rebates by cabinet orders posted Friday.

One ordered ICBC to apply to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC), no later than Thursday of this week, for approval of the cabinet-dictated $110 and $165 rebates.

A second ordered the BCUC to approve the rebates within 10 days of receiving the application from ICBC.

The first order made a mockery of Horgan’s suggestion that the rebates originated with the ICBC board and executive.

The second make a mockery of his insistence that under an NDP government the BCUC would operate as an independent regulator.

It was the second time in a month that the NDP government had violated Horgan’s non-interference doctrine regarding the commission. On March 7, the cabinet ordered the BCUC to follow a government-dictated target for B.C. Hydro profits and return-on-equity.

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The order compromised the commission’s ability to act as an independent regulator in setting Hydro rates. It reversed the NDP’s earlier commitment to give the commission a free hand in deciding such matters.

When I asked Energy Minister Bruce Ralston about the order recently, he defended it as an interim measure, pending changes in accounting standards affecting Hydro.

“It’s a transitional order,” he said. “It’s designed to last two years.”

Then he brazenly admitted that the order was the opposite of what the NDP used to argue about regulatory independence.

“I agree with you in a general sense that it does contradict some of the things that we have said in the past,” said Ralston.

But “who cares?” as Horgan said during last year’s debate on his government’s gutting of the access-to-information legislation.

So it goes with the New Democrats in government: so sure of their own moral superiority that they don’t believe they have to meet the standards that they themselves demanded in Opposition.

vpalmer@postmedia.com

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