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Liberals have some unfinished business


Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but 2017 is an election year in British Columbia.

On the presumption they’re not the same thing, government and election ads should be over by the Stanley Cup semi-finals.

There’s a bit of unfinished business, the B.C. government could attend to in the meantime, though.

Just as there are debt clocks to track the growth in public debt, perhaps there should be a “not forthcoming clock” to track the amount of time it takes for the government to come clean on the 2012 health ministry firings.

It’s been more than 225 weeks since British Columbians first learned of the firings and the second general election where we still may not know who ordered them and why.

The latest in a long line of investigators – B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke – was to have released his final report two months ago, but that was before the government dumped another four million documents on his team this summer. One of the factors in choosing Chalke – over a full-fledged public inquiry – was cost.

Chalke’s investigation is going to come in north of $2 million – with no guarantee that it will satisfy the public – and that’s on top of the $4.1 million tab to date for earlier investigations, severance payments and out-of-court settlements.

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, headed-up by former B.C. attorney-general Wally Oppal, came in at $10 million and was wrapped up in half the time.

It would have been tougher to play document dump under B.C.’s Public Inquiry Act as well.

On the Site C file, disclaimers still abound in B.C. Hydro’s so-called independent reviews of the project.

In its report this past summer, Ernst & Young and BTY Group noted that they “relied upon information provided by their client (B.C. Hydro). EY and BTY have not audited, reviewed or otherwise attempted to verify the accuracy or completeness of such information.” Comforting.

B.C. Hydro’s forecast methodology expert and accounting firm KPMG had similar disclaimers in their 2014 reports.

Bet the B.C. Utilities Commission would have verified the numbers, if they’d been given the chance.

It’s unfortunate the government didn’t place a similar condition on B.C. Hydro that the federal government is placing on Kinder Morgan for its proposed pipeline expansion.

Kinder Morgan must have signed deals in place with companies for at least 60 per cent of the pipeline’s capacity, at least three months before construction.

Instead British Columbians are served up rhetoric, like being told to “keep our eye on the long game,” as B.C. Hydro president and CEO Jessica McDonald said recently.

Not sure the long game will cover the debt servicing charges.

When the government announced in November that B.C. families “in need of affordable rental housing will soon have access to close to 2,900 new units of housing,” they left a not insignificant matter out of their news release.

They overlooked mentioning that not all of the 68 projects are fully-funded.

Shortly after the announcement, The Terrace Standard reported that the Ksan House Society’s project still needs a further $5.5 million and that’s after the government’s $8 million contribution.

Beedie Development and EllisDon Corporation should be able to make do with their public subsidies, but for some of the other projects don’t call the movers any time soon.

For a better sense of this government’s commitment to affordable housing, consider this bullet point from a 2011 news release: “In the 10 years since 2001, the government has committed to creating nearly 21,400 new units of housing.”

And from its release in November, five years later: “Since 2001, the Province has completed close to 24,000 new units of affordable housing.”

A difference of all of 2,600 units.

The Insurance Corporation of B.C. is about to undergo its second government review in five years (expect the report sometime after the May election).

Premier Christy Clark has already taken off the table the one thing th
at leaves Canada’s three other public auto insurers in decent financial shape: no-fault insurance.

Makes one wonder who is so strongly opposed to the idea? Likely, a group that does well with the current regime. Lawyers spring to mind.

It’s tough to judge a government’s performance when it hides big chunks of it or is less than forthcoming on other files.

Perhaps Clark and company can clear some of it up before May 9.

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntergrityBC.

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