In the spring session I introduced legislation to change B.C.’s fixed election date to the fall from its current date in May. The reason for this is straightforward: every four years the government gets to use the budget as an election platform because it doesn’t get scrutinized by the Opposition and passed into law before the May election.
As we saw in the 2009 election, the deficit was not half a billion dollars as then Premier Gordon Campbell projected in his pre-election budget. It was more than $2 billion dollars and this dramatic increase in the deficit was one of the reasons Campbell jumped at the opportunity to introduce the HST and grab the federal windfall that came with this tax. We all know the chaos this move created. Not passing the spring budget every four years also means government agencies and organizations that depend on government money don’t know what their real budgets are until at least September — unnecessarily disrupting the delivery of public services. In the spring session, I suggested the first fall election should be held in October 2012 because the new leaders of the Liberal and NDP parties appeared to be chomping at the bit to go to the polls as early as possible. The bill I introduced this week has the first fall election occurring in October 2013. The reason for this later date is also quite simple: it is the only way to guarantee British Columbians get a truly post-HST election.
In February 2013, the government will have to introduce a balanced budget (the balanced budget legislation comes back into effect that year) with revenue projections based on the GST and PST and expenses taking into account the HST payback scheme the province is able to negotiate with the federal government. Postponing the election to the fall of 2013 means the Liberal and NDP parties will have to base their 2013 election promises on a balanced, scrutinized and voted into law post-HST budget, not the Liberal’s election platform disguised as a budget if the election is still held in May that year. In my estimation, this is the only way British Columbians can truly put the HST behind them before they choose their next government.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.