This tactic was used in the televised leadersâ€™ debate last weekend, when Mr Campbell remarked:
â€œWhen youâ€™re talking about the economy, I think itâ€™s fair to ask the question: Why is there not one major employer group in British Columbia – in mining, in tourism, in forestry – that actually supports the New Democratsâ€™ policies?â€
Like most other over-simplified messages, this one is also incorrect. Good economic policy does not mean pandering to business-based interest groups. Yes, lowering business taxes and relaxing workersâ€™ rights makes it easier for firms to reap higher profits, which encourages them to set up locally, creating jobs for the local population and increasing economic growth. However, economic growth alone is not a guarantee that everyone (or even most people) would benefit from the increased prosperity. In BC, weâ€™ve seen this clearly over the last 25 years, when economic growth was strong yet poverty remained largely unchanged and income inequality increased substantially.
Where does this leave us? We need to keep in mind that the whole point of having a strong economy is to benefit society by improving the standard of living of people. We cannot continue to ignore our social and environmental problems in the name of having a strong economy. We need to balance the need of businesses to keep their costs low with the needs of workers to earn enough so that they are able to afford the basics like housing, child care, education to make sure weâ€™re all set on the right path in life.
This does not mean that we have to completely ignore the interests of the business sector. Policy-making in a recession involves some trade offs for sure, but itâ€™s not the all-or-nothing proposition that the BC Liberals are trying to make it.
US President Obama summed it up well on March 10th, when he revealed the first details of his education plan (quoted widely in the media, for example here):
I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time [but] we donâ€™t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.
Itâ€™s time for our policy-makers to recognize that tax dollars are not simply a drain of resources from individuals or businesses but can and should be used for productive investments that would make the economy stronger and more sustainable in the future. These investments include building up physical infrastructure, as the current government is doing, but they also include making this infrastructure â€œgreen,â€ which they are not doing (as Marc explains here), as well as building up the social infrastructure we require to ensure that our children are well-educated and prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.
The current US Administration is doing it. Letâ€™s make sure that those we elect next week in BC do the same.