Immediately after the tabling of the BC budget in February, Tom Fletcher, who Black Press calls a columnist but is–in reality–little more than a Liberal Party propagandist, came out swinging under the headline “NDP moving to massive expansion of nanny state.” Interestingly, the same week the right-wing Vancouver Sun featured columnist Rob Shaw’s column “B.C. Budget 2019: Baby steps for new spending” trying to downplay the significant benefits of the BC Budget.
How can two right wing news sources be so contradictory in their views on the BCNDP budget? Well, if you read down Fletcher’s column he seems to offer little support for his headlining argument. Indeed, I wouldn’t have mentioned Fletcher’s self contradictory argument except that in our twitterized/facebooked world where real information/analysis is buried beneath a mountain of information bits it is only the headline that remains as “information.”
And, indeed, that is all that Fletcher is communicating. He is simply applying the well used tactics of mass persuasion used in Brexit, US elections, our referendum, recent attacks on the federal carbon tax on electoral reform: reduce/remove all meaningful/thoughtful information to information bits that can be massaged, grated, manipulated into petty but powerful resentments. Almost the whole of public persuasion these days comes down to attempts to manipulate petty resentments. Just look at our recently past referendum on electoral reform. Before it even began people like Tom Fletcher and Bill Tieleman telegraphed what the no side would use to defeat electoral reform: it’s complex; so just vote no and you won’t have to think a complex thought.” The urgency and ubiquity of the promoted resentment was so compelling that there was no time (or will) to consider how complex these little communication devices we all thumb incessantly are and how well we think they serve us. No, the only message that got through was electoral reform is complex so vote no. Now the Conservative Party of Canada is flooding those little devices with attempts to create bite sized resentment about a federal carbon tax that would “raise the price of gas at the pump by 5 cents a litre!) How is that for a powerful incentive to resentment toward the federal Liberal Party? Now these bite sized resentments don’t allow for consideration of important things like how much are we willing to spend to secure a healthy future for our children or how much does gas go up to support the bloated profits of oil companies. They just say the same little bite over and over—5 cents is too much!
So back to Fletcher’s column, headlining “a massive expansion of the nanny state.” The column, separate from the headline, is little more than unfocused gibberish—nowhere near documenting the assertion in the headline. But the headline is all that the propaganda piece is about-like the simplistic resentments against European unity, a voting system that requires you to think, or a climate saving tax that costs motorists five cents. The Fletcher column is worth noting simply because it shows so clearly the propaganda line that the right will use in the next election: not a reasoned argument about good government(with the monies they squandered on their buddies the last thing the Liberals want is a meaningful discussion about good government) but the argument/propaganda they will use (promote in bite sized pieces) is this absurd resentment about anything that promotes our common good being a “massive expansion of the Nanny State.”
It seems to me that what Fletcher resents as a Nanny State is simply what we call a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Interestingly Fletcher didn’t seem concerned when the Liberals were giving away public property at fire sale prices to Liberal Party insiders, or picking up the tab for mining spills, or subsidizing the sale of fracked gas, or directing tax cuts to the wealthy. It seems it is not the nannying he objects to—just who gets nannied.
Rob Shaw’s attempt to attack the budget from the other direction is much more accurate but misleading in calling the budget “baby steps.” Budget could have done more, but given the trajectory we were on with the BC Liberals, the NDP Budget 2019 is clearly a change in direction toward “Making Life Better” for the large majority of British Columbians who have suffered under decades of government for the wealthy few only. Clearly things like the elimination of MSP premiums will save BC families as much as $1,800 per year. Add to that the impact of the new BC Child Opportunity Benefit which will significantly benefit families with up to $3400 a year. Community Living BC home share providers will see the first increase to their compensation since 2009! An incredible burden has been lifted off the shoulders of young people struggling to make loan payments by eliminating the interest on BC student loans. The budget, which is clearly influenced by the BC Green Party, makes significant advances in promoting a greener BC economy.
Budget 2019 is clearly the most progressive BC budget since the Barrett government. Ten years ago it would have been all we could ask for as a start to “Making Life Better.” Unfortunately we are facing a world that is rapidly descending into climate ecological collapse thus making the BC budget more like putting more comfortable bunks on the Titanic. Many of the benefits promoted in the budget are predicated on income from promoting the export of Liquefied Natural Gas. Instead of aiming for a budget to build a sustaining and sustainable world, it pretends like we can go hyper on promoting the export of fossils fuels in order to fund making life better in BC. It assumes that gas burned somewhere else is different from gas we burn at home. It assumes that LNG in China will replace coal instead of simply adding more fossil fuel plants to the rapidly expanding Chinese economy—an illusion at best. It assumes that we have a great deal more time to reduce our total carbon emissions than we actually have. Instead of planning for a sustainable economy based on renewable energy it attempts to fund small changes by selling our fossil fuels to someone else to burn. It assumes that we can’t think of anything better to do with all that power generated by Site C than to use it up compressing fossil fuel to ship to China.
The problem isn’t that Budget 2019 promotes a Nanny State nor is it baby steps. It is a progressive step forward when we should be stepping out in a different direction.