Fletcher: Little new to get excited about in B.C. Liberals renewal

For all the talk of change, the B.C. Liberals are not moving far from where they have always been.

B.C. Liberal delegates gathered for their convention on the weekend at the Chateau Whistler, the same luxury hotel where Gordon Campbell fired up the troops in 2008.

At the time, Campbell led a front-running party to a third straight majority, while Clark is a struggling underdog pleading for unity to turn back an NDP tsunami.

Hence “Free Enterprise Friday,” a discussion open to non-party members. Clark began with an upbeat speech urging party members to “reach out our arms, open the tent and be as big as we can possibly be.”

So did they? Dashing between three concurrent sessions, I missed a fair amount of it, but there were some provocative suggestions to appeal to those inclined to support the resurgent B.C. Conservatives. An accountant spoke to a packed room about the growing unfunded liability of public sector pensions, most of which are still of the “defined benefit” variety. Based on bond interest rates that have since sunk to all-time lows, these government-guaranteed pensions are now a free ride for those lucky enough to have them, funded by the taxes of private sector workers who in many cases have no pension plan at all.

There was talk of passing a law that all new public sector hires be restricted to a “defined contribution” plan where the employee and employer contribute equally and the pension is based on what those contributions yield. This would provoke the mother of all confrontations with the B.C. Federation of Labour, but there was no evidence yet that this is going beyond the talking stage.

The resolutions continued the theme of confronting the labour movement, ritual combat that seems to be an inescapable part of B.C. elections. Delegates passed two motions, one calling for public sector unions to disclose what they spend on salaries, political activities and lobbying, and another advocating a ban on unions spending compulsory dues on political campaigns.

Delegates rejected another motion that would have made membership in the B.C. Teachers’ Federation optional, an unwanted political declaration of war at a time when Clark and Education Minister Don McRae are looking to end decades of labour confrontation with the BCTF.

There was a brief debate on a motion to scrap the carbon tax, sponsored by northern members who see it as unfairly punitive on those who endure cold weather and long highway drives for themselves and the goods they need to have trucked in. This was rejected too, after delegates were reminded that the tax now takes in more than $1 billion annually that is used to reduce business and personal income taxes. Scrapping it would amount to announcing across-the-board income tax hikes.The convention overall was high-energy and well-attended, but nothing new came out of it.

Tom Fletcher is the B.C. Legislature reporter in Victoria for Black Press.


Just Posted

UPDATED: Heavy rain causes flooding in the Central Okanagan

Portion of lower Glenrosa Road closed due to flooding

Protect the Water rally today in Kelowna

The rally will be held at No. 102 – 1420 St Paul Street, Kelowna.

Feature Friday: Is the sky the limit for downtown Kelowna construction?

City building up, not out, as high rise living becomes more popular

Free theatre performance for Lake Country families

Robinson Crusoe + Friday will be performed at Creekside Theatre April 14

Wild weather leads to power outages

Thousands woke up in the dark this morning, as Fortis crews scrambled to get power up and running.

Jury finds Chad Alphonse guilty of manslaughter in murder trial

Kelowna jury delivers its verdict a day after starting its deliberations.

BREAKING: B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

UPDATED: MPs Elizabeth May, Kennedy Stewart arrested at B.C. anti-pipeline protest

The demonstration is part of a day of action against the Trans Mountain expansion

Armstrong declares State of Emergency

Residents whose homes are impacted by the flooding should call City Hall 250-546-3023

Flooding leads to Pioneer Square evacuation in Armstrong

Armstrong assisted living facility has water in basement; nine suites evacuated

PHOTOS: Students exhibit stunning paper couture dresses

22 paper made gowns will be on display at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre until March 27

BCHL Today: Prince George avoids elimination with game five win

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Suspect arrested and charged for assault on autistic man

Parmvir Chahil has strong B.C. ties; two others charged with accessory after the fact

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Most Read