Work now begins for new Liberal government

Pollsters and pundits got one thing right last week. The election was the NDP’s to lose.

Pollsters and pundits got one thing right last week. The election was the NDP’s to lose. They were polled as being 20 points ahead of the Liberals. But to the shock of almost everyone it all  came crashing down Tuesday night  when voters re-elected a Liberal majority government.

It knocked the socks off everyone. But for all the pollsters, the only person who ultimately mattered was the voter at the ballot box.

In those last few weeks, there were signs that the NDP had an agenda shifting away from what mattered most to voters  – the economy. Adrian Dix wobbled on the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion; he was vague about carbon tax, and there was no clear direction on how he was going to pay for all the promises, reduce debt, and expand job opportunities. That Earth Day flip flop on the pipeline expansion did little to instill confidence in his decision making abilities.

Premier Christie Clark’s messaging focused on the economy and jobs. That resonated with people. A strong economy is the foundation from which all other policies and political decisions flow. The voters get it. Bill Clinton’s adage that it really is the economy isn’t so stupid.

Reduce debt, lower deficits, control spending, balance the budget, and develop a climate for investment to expand business. Those timeless steps generate jobs, meaningful family incomes that allow people to pay their bills, save, plan a future, and entertain new opportunities. When push came to shove last Tuesday, there was not the appetite for change.

With unfilled jobs out there in the marketplace, B.C. needs to build on that dynamic in both diversity and number. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, unfilled private sector jobs have remained steady at 2.5 per cent representing close to 300,000 full and part-time jobs

“As the economy has improved and unemployment has come down, companies, particularly smaller companies, have struggled to fill open jobs,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president. “While unfilled jobs may seem harmless, they represent missed opportunity for business and the economy.”

A CFIB report said that businesses with fewer than 19 employees had the highest vacancy rate (4.2 per cent), while businesses with 500 or more employees had the lowest (1.6 per cent). Recently, the federal government introduced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that could make it even harder for smaller firms to find the staff they need.

The Liberals are back for another term but Clark’s problems aren’t quite over. She lost her own seat in the election so a by-election is on the horizon. And the job of governing has now got to deliver a balanced economic climate that will yield job opportunities, growth and investment.

With the HST and its benefits to investors gone, the re-instated PST tax base plus an increase in corporate income tax rates makes B.C. a lot less competitive. The Liberals are going to have to deliver on a competitive tax Plan B to counter the unattractive PST factor by next year’s budget.

As much as the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline are inflammatory, Clark is going to have to come to grips with a decision on one or both. And quickly. Alberta will get its bitumen to market one way or another – east, south or north. If it comes west then the environmental factor must be dealt with head on. Meanwhile, clean green energy infrastructures must be fast-tracked.

Delivering her victory speech, Clark quipped, “That was easy!” What lies ahead may be less so, but at least she’s got a mandate from the people to kickstart prosperity and make B.C. the go-to province.