Election 2013
"Who can I trust?" is the question reporter Cassidy Olivier explored on Wednesday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

"Who can I trust?" is the question reporter Cassidy Olivier explored on Wednesday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

Liberal leader Christy Clark and NDP leader Adrian Dix pose for the cameras before a debate on April 29. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)
Who can I trust?
By Cassidy Olivier, The Province
Gary Young, a vocal independent candidate for Cariboo-Chilcotin, offers an old saying when the conversation turns to trust in government, something that he says is sorely lacking.
“It’s not a given,” he said during a recent phone call. “Trust has to be earned.”
In an election campaign that has been easy to forget for its lack of flair, the words offer a timely reminder of the major themes that have been driving the current race to the ballot box.
While Premier Christy Clark, hardhat firmly on head, has tried to frame election 2013 as a choice between a bright, prosperous future and a return to the cursed ’90s, political observers agree that the real ballot questions will be ones of change, credibility and trust.
Who do I trust? Who do I believe will make good on their promises? Who will offer the change I want?


The Province wants to hear your thoughts on this election issue. There are five ways to tell us:
Comment at the bottom of this story. Reporter Cassidy Olivier will participate in the discussion.
Leave a voice message at our Election Hotline: 604-605-2688.
Find this story on our Facebook page and comment there.
Comment on Twitter using the hashtag #provelxn.
Email tabtips@theprovince.com. 

“Change is the word,” said Martyn Brown, a political commentator and Gordon Campbell’s former chief of staff. 
“But it is also a loss of trust and confidence that are the issues in this campaign.”
The main reason for this is a direct result of what Brown’s old boss did in 2009 after winning a third term in office on a ballot that was exclusively about who was best able to handle the chequebook during the global financial crisis.
Soon after a victorious Campbell gave B.C. the thumbs-up on the front page, another finger was waving figuratively in the air in the form of a soon-to-be-despised harmonized sales tax. Within months, Campbell was before the TV cameras offering his resignation.
Clark has done much since then to change the channel: the party has been rebranded, the bulk of the old guard has left, the message has been repackaged and the course re-charted. “Today’s BC Liberals” is what their logo now says, which is code for “We’ve Changed.”
A string of recent polls suggest that this has had some success in altering the narrative, with one poll showing the Liberals have cut the NDP’s lead to seven points, half of what it was at the start of the campaign. Clark’s approval ratings have also gone up considerably.
Yet there remains a sense that the sour taste left by the HST still lingers and that the public at large isn’t buying the change being sold. 
An Ipsos Reid poll released Tuesday, found that only 31 per cent of respondents have trust in Clark and the B.C. Liberals with 65 per cent saying they have no trust in the party and its leader. Adrian Dix and the NDP scored 43 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.
The results coincide with the start of a targeted ad campaign by the NDP aimed at reminding voters about the HST and other Liberal black eyes from the past. 
“It was going to be a tough challenge from the start for Christy Clark and the Liberals to restore public trust over the course of the short campaign, and it appears they have not managed to do that,” said Kyle Braid, vice-president of polling firm Ipsos Reid. 
There is also the question of Clark’s own credibility and trustworthiness, issues her chief rival, Dix, has also had to deal with.
Clark came into the election run still wobbling from the ethnic memo scandal, which cost her a deputy chief of staff and a cabinet minister. While her campaign has, for the most part, been run well, said Braid, it hasn’t been without its share of ridicule. 
Despite what has been claimed, the hard facts don’t back up the B.C. Jobs Plan. Promises of a balanced budget are also looked on with doubt as is the pledge of paying off B.C.’s debt with a still-unrealized liquefied natural gas industry. There was also that red light.
While Clark has regained a slight edge over Dix in a recent Angus Reid poll on the question of who is best suited to handle the economy (37 per cent to Dix’s 36 per cent), she didn’t score as well on questions of truth and honesty. 
Of the 807 respondents surveyed in the May 2 Angus Reid poll, only 25 per cent expressed confidence that Clark would keep her campaign promises. Twenty-nine per cent said expressed confidence that she would tell the truth and be honest. 
Dix scored 37 per cent and 35 per cent on the same questions, these relatively low numbers hinting at the trust questions the NDP leader has himself had to answer for.
“It is not as if Dix is setting the world on fire here,” said Mario Canseco, vice-president of polling firm Angus Reid. 
“If you are someone who is advocating for change, you want to be over 50 per cent on most of it.”
The only question that Dix scored higher than 50 per cent on in that poll was on whether or not the infamous back-dating memo incident, which cost Dix his job as Glen Clark’s chief of staff, remains a relevant issue. Fifty-one per cent of British Columbians said yes. 
Questioned about a more recent incident, in which Dix was caught riding a the SkyTrain without a ticket, 44 per cent of respondents said it is an issue that “matters a lot/somewhat” to them. 
The Liberals have used these points, as well as his sudden flip-flop on the Kinder Morgan proposal, to not only discredit Dix, but also to create the impression in voters’ minds that the kind of change he is offering isn’t the kind B.C. wants.
Judging by the results of the Tuesday poll on trust, Braid said that the strategy may be working.
“It looks like they may have shaken some of the trust in Adrian Dix and the NDP who now have a majority of voters who disagree that they trust the No. 1 candidate for change in this election,” said Braid. “So the B.C. Liberals haven’t restored trust in themselves, but they have perhaps made some voters question whether they trust Adrian Dix and the NDP.”
Dix’s unwillingness, until this week, to hammer the Liberals over the HST and past transgressions could be part of the reason Clark’s party has been able to gain ground, said Norman Ruff, political scientist emeritus at the University of Victoria. 
As such, he expects that the NDP will up their attack in the closing week of the campaign. But that may not be enough, he added.
“They need to give people a stronger reason for voting for the NDP other than distrust,” he said. “I don’t think that will be enough. They can’t just rely on the government defeating itself as they have been. They need a stronger end game than they’ve shown.”
WHAT THE POLLS SAY
Who do you trust? (don’t trust)
Jane Sterk and the Green Party: 46% trust (31% don’t trust)
Adrian Dix and the NDP: 43% (54%)
Christy Clark and the BC Liberals: 31% (65%)
John Cummins and the B.C. Conservatives: 24% (58%)
— Ipsos Reid, May 7, 2013
Best Premier
Adrian Dix: 26%
Christy Clark: 24%
Jane Sterk: 6% 
John Cummins: 5%
— Angus Reid, May 2, 2013
Adrian Dix: 34%
Christy Clark: 31%
Jane Sterk: 8% 
John Cummins: 7%
— Ipsos Reid, May 3, 2013
BY THE NUMBERS
A recent poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion offers some insight into how trustworthy British Columbians feel Adrian Dix and Christy Clark are. Of those surveyed in the May 2, 2013 poll, 37 per cent said they trust Dix to keep his campaign promises while 25 per cent said they feel the same for Clark. 
Respondents also had more trust in Dix to tell the truth and be honest (35 per cent compared to Clark’s 29 per cent), and to put the interests of the people ahead of lobbyists, businesses and unions (40 per cent compared to Clark’s 28 per cent). Clark, however, had a slight edge on the question of who will best handle the economy (37 per cent to 36 per cent). 
The poll also asked respondents about the following incidents from the past:
Adrian Dix riding public transit without a ticket: 44 per cent of respondents scored it as an issue “that matter a lot/somewhat to me now”
Adrian Dix backdating a memo when he was chief of staff to Glen Clark: 51 per cent
The way the previous Liberal government brought in the HST: 66 per cent
The decision by the previous Liberal government to pay the $6 million in legal fees for Dave Basi and Bobby Virk in the B.C. Rail case: 67 per cent

Liberal leader Christy Clark and NDP leader Adrian Dix pose for the cameras before a debate on April 29. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Who can I trust?

By Cassidy Olivier, The Province

Gary Young, a vocal independent candidate for Cariboo-Chilcotin, offers an old saying when the conversation turns to trust in government, something that he says is sorely lacking.

“It’s not a given,” he said during a recent phone call. “Trust has to be earned.”

In an election campaign that has been easy to forget for its lack of flair, the words offer a timely reminder of the major themes that have been driving the current race to the ballot box.

While Premier Christy Clark, hardhat firmly on head, has tried to frame election 2013 as a choice between a bright, prosperous future and a return to the cursed ’90s, political observers agree that the real ballot questions will be ones of change, credibility and trust.

Who do I trust? Who do I believe will make good on their promises? Who will offer the change I want?

The Province wants to hear your thoughts on this election issue. There are five ways to tell us:

  • Comment at the bottom of this story. Reporter Cassidy Olivier will participate in the discussion.
  • Leave a voice message at our Election Hotline: 604-605-2688.
  • Find this story on our Facebook page and comment there.
  • Comment on Twitter using the hashtag #provelxn.
  • Email tabtips@theprovince.com

“Change is the word,” said Martyn Brown, a political commentator and Gordon Campbell’s former chief of staff. 

“But it is also a loss of trust and confidence that are the issues in this campaign.”

The main reason for this is a direct result of what Brown’s old boss did in 2009 after winning a third term in office on a ballot that was exclusively about who was best able to handle the chequebook during the global financial crisis.

Soon after a victorious Campbell gave B.C. the thumbs-up on the front page, another finger was waving figuratively in the air in the form of a soon-to-be-despised harmonized sales tax. Within months, Campbell was before the TV cameras offering his resignation.

Clark has done much since then to change the channel: the party has been rebranded, the bulk of the old guard has left, the message has been repackaged and the course re-charted. “Today’s BC Liberals” is what their logo now says, which is code for “We’ve Changed.”

A string of recent polls suggest that this has had some success in altering the narrative, with one poll showing the Liberals have cut the NDP’s lead to seven points, half of what it was at the start of the campaign. Clark’s approval ratings have also gone up considerably.

Yet there remains a sense that the sour taste left by the HST still lingers and that the public at large isn’t buying the change being sold. 

An Ipsos Reid poll released Tuesday, found that only 31 per cent of respondents have trust in Clark and the B.C. Liberals with 65 per cent saying they have no trust in the party and its leader. Adrian Dix and the NDP scored 43 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.

The results coincide with the start of a targeted ad campaign by the NDP aimed at reminding voters about the HST and other Liberal black eyes from the past. 

“It was going to be a tough challenge from the start for Christy Clark and the Liberals to restore public trust over the course of the short campaign, and it appears they have not managed to do that,” said Kyle Braid, vice-president of polling firm Ipsos Reid. 

There is also the question of Clark’s own credibility and trustworthiness, issues her chief rival, Dix, has also had to deal with.

Clark came into the election run still wobbling from the ethnic memo scandal, which cost her a deputy chief of staff and a cabinet minister. While her campaign has, for the most part, been run well, said Braid, it hasn’t been without its share of ridicule. 

Despite what has been claimed, the hard facts don’t back up the B.C. Jobs Plan. Promises of a balanced budget are also looked on with doubt as is the pledge of paying off B.C.’s debt with a still-unrealized liquefied natural gas industry. There was also that red light.

While Clark has regained a slight edge over Dix in a recent Angus Reid poll on the question of who is best suited to handle the economy (37 per cent to Dix’s 36 per cent), she didn’t score as well on questions of truth and honesty. 

Of the 807 respondents surveyed in the May 2 Angus Reid poll, only 25 per cent expressed confidence that Clark would keep her campaign promises. Twenty-nine per cent said expressed confidence that she would tell the truth and be honest. 

Dix scored 37 per cent and 35 per cent on the same questions, these relatively low numbers hinting at the trust questions the NDP leader has himself had to answer for.

“It is not as if Dix is setting the world on fire here,” said Mario Canseco, vice-president of polling firm Angus Reid. 

“If you are someone who is advocating for change, you want to be over 50 per cent on most of it.”

The only question that Dix scored higher than 50 per cent on in that poll was on whether or not the infamous back-dating memo incident, which cost Dix his job as Glen Clark’s chief of staff, remains a relevant issue. Fifty-one per cent of British Columbians said yes. 

Questioned about a more recent incident, in which Dix was caught riding a the SkyTrain without a ticket, 44 per cent of respondents said it is an issue that “matters a lot/somewhat” to them. 

The Liberals have used these points, as well as his sudden flip-flop on the Kinder Morgan proposal, to not only discredit Dix, but also to create the impression in voters’ minds that the kind of change he is offering isn’t the kind B.C. wants.

Judging by the results of the Tuesday poll on trust, Braid said that the strategy may be working.

“It looks like they may have shaken some of the trust in Adrian Dix and the NDP who now have a majority of voters who disagree that they trust the No. 1 candidate for change in this election,” said Braid. “So the B.C. Liberals haven’t restored trust in themselves, but they have perhaps made some voters question whether they trust Adrian Dix and the NDP.”

Dix’s unwillingness, until this week, to hammer the Liberals over the HST and past transgressions could be part of the reason Clark’s party has been able to gain ground, said Norman Ruff, political scientist emeritus at the University of Victoria. 

As such, he expects that the NDP will up their attack in the closing week of the campaign. But that may not be enough, he added.

“They need to give people a stronger reason for voting for the NDP other than distrust,” he said. “I don’t think that will be enough. They can’t just rely on the government defeating itself as they have been. They need a stronger end game than they’ve shown.”

WHAT THE POLLS SAY

Who do you trust? (don’t trust)

Jane Sterk and the Green Party: 46% trust (31% don’t trust)

Adrian Dix and the NDP: 43% (54%)

Christy Clark and the BC Liberals: 31% (65%)

John Cummins and the B.C. Conservatives: 24% (58%)

— Ipsos Reid, May 7, 2013

Best Premier

Adrian Dix: 26%

Christy Clark: 24%

Jane Sterk: 6% 

John Cummins: 5%

— Angus Reid, May 2, 2013

Adrian Dix: 34%

Christy Clark: 31%

Jane Sterk: 8% 

John Cummins: 7%

— Ipsos Reid, May 3, 2013

BY THE NUMBERS

A recent poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion offers some insight into how trustworthy British Columbians feel Adrian Dix and Christy Clark are. Of those surveyed in the May 2, 2013 poll, 37 per cent said they trust Dix to keep his campaign promises while 25 per cent said they feel the same for Clark. 

Respondents also had more trust in Dix to tell the truth and be honest (35 per cent compared to Clark’s 29 per cent), and to put the interests of the people ahead of lobbyists, businesses and unions (40 per cent compared to Clark’s 28 per cent). Clark, however, had a slight edge on the question of who will best handle the economy (37 per cent to 36 per cent). 

The poll also asked respondents about the following incidents from the past:

Adrian Dix riding public transit without a ticket: 44 per cent of respondents scored it as an issue “that matter a lot/somewhat to me now”

Adrian Dix backdating a memo when he was chief of staff to Glen Clark: 51 per cent

The way the previous Liberal government brought in the HST: 66 per cent

The decision by the previous Liberal government to pay the $6 million in legal fees for Dave Basi and Bobby Virk in the B.C. Rail case: 67 per cent

"Why haven’t women warmed to the Liberals under Christy Clark?" is the question reporter Cassidy Olivier explored on Sunday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

"Why haven’t women warmed to the Liberals under Christy Clark?" is the question reporter Cassidy Olivier explored on Sunday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

BC Liberal leader Christy Clark trails NDP leader Adrian Dix in the female vote, according to recent polls, despite her attempts to resonate with women. (CP)
Why haven’t women warmed to the Liberals under Christy Clark?
By Cassidy Olivier, The Province
For a brief period about two years ago, Tara Torrell, 32, would likely have voted for the BC Liberals, who were experiencing a rebirth of sorts under the stewardship of newly anointed premier Christy Clark.
At the time, Clark, fresh off her leadership win, was speaking about the importance of families and doing stuff like slinging coffee during the morning rush at the Sunshine Diner, raising the minimum wage, and walking the beat with Vancouver police officers.
As someone who had voted NDP in the past, Torrell, a health-care worker, found Clark’s approach to politics refreshing, engaging and, at the time, in-line with her personal values as a voter.   
“I actually liked her,” Torrell said. “Because she was new and you are thinking ‘OK, she might have a different approach.’ She had been a talk-show host so you are thinking she is a little more connected to the community and maybe she can bring forth her ideas.”
The polls from the time suggest Torrell wasn’t alone in her thinking. 
According to a March 2011 survey from Angus Reid Public Opinion, the Liberals had surpassed the NDP by five points, a considerable feat given the months-long beating the party, and then leader Gordon Campbell, had taken over the mishandling of the HST.
Public anger over the tax had been so great that just four months earlier, in November 2010, the NDP had amassed a 21-point lead over the governing Liberals. Campbell, his personal approval ratings at 12 per cent, resigned from office that same month. 
But with a fresh face at the helm, the March 2011 poll suggested voters were prepared to offer the BC Liberals another chance. 
More interesting, however, was that the results showed the Liberals were gaining traction among women voters, which suggested Clark’s play to the so-called softer issues of family and affordability — historically NDP territory — was resonating. 
“That is when women said: Hey, this is interesting, this is a person who is here for me,” said Mario Canseco, vice-president of polling firm Angus Reid Public Opinion. 
“It was because she was connecting on an issue that the NDP had dominated on for so long. And it disappeared so quickly.”

The Province wants to hear your thoughts on this election issue. There are five ways to tell us:
Comment at the bottom of this story. Reporter Cassidy Olivier will participate in the discussion.
Leave a voice message at our Election Hotline: 604-605-2688.
Find this story on our Facebook page and comment there.
Comment on Twitter using the hashtag #provelxn.
Email tabtips@theprovince.com. 

Within months the polls started to shift. Not only did the NDP open up a massive 20-point lead, Clark’s personal approval ratings nosedived. But perhaps more important was the gaping gender gap that quickly developed under Clark’s watch.
To be fair, the gap has always existed, as women voters have historically tended to support the party that has focused more on social issues (NDP) over the so-called centre-right issues of economy and crime (Social Credit, BC Liberals).
But the sheer size of it had some in the media suggesting it could be a defining factor in the election.

Mario Canseco, vice-president of the polling firm Angus Reid Public Opinion, says polls show Premier Christy Clark is facing a large gender gap. (Jenelle Schneider/PNG)
As early as last week, the divide stood at a commanding 19 points (48 per cent of female voters saying they will vote NDP compared to 29 per cent who said they will vote Liberal). By comparison, a poll taken right before the May 2009 election showed a gender gap of only four points.
An Angus Reid poll released Thursday, however, suggests the current gap has closed considerably, with 35 per cent of female voters now saying they will vote Liberal, compared to 45 per cent who said they will vote NDP. That’s a 6-per-cent gain within a week. 
An Ipsos Reid poll released Friday also noted a considerable narrowing — not quite as significant, though — with 50 per cent of women surveyed saying they will vote NDP, 30 per cent saying they will vote Liberal. (Last month it was 54 per cent NDP, 23 per cent Liberal.) 
This sudden narrowing could be a result of Clark’s concerted efforts to court the female vote via women’s events. It’s also possible that her messaging — strong economy equals strong families — may have started to resonate with women.
But it could also be the result of a fear factor as voting day inches closer, experts say.
The poll suggests that a small amount of disaffected Liberal female voters, who may have parked their vote with the NDP in protest, are reconsidering their choice as the campaign enters the home-stretch.
“Ultimately my view about women who voted for the Liberals under Campbell and were unconvinced about Clark’s leadership are looking at it in a more pragmatic way and saying, ‘I may be mad at them, …. but the fear of an NDP government at this point … is so much that I will be willing to forget them and vote for them again,” said Canseco. 
But even if the gap has narrowed to eight points, it doesn’t fully answer the questions around what appears to be a complex relationship between Clark and women voters: Is there a personal dislike or is it more of an issue of what her party represents? Is it a bit of both?
“Now it is like she is just a face,” Torrell said of Clark. “It’s like she is just following other people and not really doing the right thing.”

Tara Torrell isn’t feeling nearly as upbeat about Christy Clark now as she was when Clark first took over the Liberal leadership. (Jenelle Schneider/PNG)
Torrell’s comments go some way in supporting the argument pundits have put forward in an effort to explain what was, until this week, a potentially decisive gender gap: namely that Clark strikes many women as inauthentic.
“Fundamentally, I think the thing that is unnerving to women is this issue around authenticity,” said political commentator Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff. “Is she the person she purports to be? Is she sincere?”
This has been partly caused by the constant shift in messaging emanating from the Premier’s Office, explained Brown. 
There has also been Clark’s questionable handling of issues like Richard Branson’s offer to go kitesurfing in the buff and, earlier this year, her response to an admittedly crass query posed by a radio host where she stated that it was better to be a MILF than a cougar.

We hit the streets to find out what women think of Christy Clark. (Rafe Arnott/The Province)
“I think a lot of women, especially single moms, they almost resent her comparison as a single mother and really that is a bit of a credibility gap as well,” said Laila Yuile, a political columnist for 24 Hours. “Because her life as a single mother is so removed. So when she comes out and brings her son and talks about how hard it is to be a working mother, most women who are in the same situation, would actually just roll their eyes.”
But there are others, like Mary Polak, Liberal candidate in Langley, who have consistently maintained that there is a major disconnect between what the polls were saying and what was being said on the ground.
“I hear very positive things about her from women in my community,” said Polak.
The “Women 4 Christy” Facebook page, created by a self-proclaimed non-partisan group, supports this view.
Pollster Evi Mustel, meantime, said the gap has nothing to do with Clark’s personal stock among women. Mustel, who said she has been tracking the gap for a long time, recently said the gap isn’t nearly as large as the other polls suggest.
“Really, the numbers are exactly where they were when Gordon Campbell was in the same positions in the polls,” she said. “So my take is it is not so much a gender gap. I mean they have always had a problem with the gender gap, but it is not a Christy Clark problem — it is a Liberal Party problem.”
Polls aside, Torrell, for her part, is still undecided where she will cast her vote May 14. But it won’t be for the Liberals. 
“It is hard to say,” she said. “It’s 50-50 between the NDP and the Greens.”
WHAT THE POLLS SAY ABOUT CHRISTY CLARK
The ‘best premier’ question: 18 per cent
Approval rating: 27 per cent
Disapproval rating: 63 per cent
Momentum score: -38 per cent
— Angus Reid Public Opinion, April 16, 2013
Top four descriptives
Out of touch: 41 per cent
Arrogant : 39 per cent
Secretive: 33 per cent
Inefficient: 33 per cent
— Angus Reid Public Opinion, Feb. 5, 2013

BC Liberal leader Christy Clark trails NDP leader Adrian Dix in the female vote, according to recent polls, despite her attempts to resonate with women. (CP)

Why haven’t women warmed to the Liberals under Christy Clark?

By Cassidy Olivier, The Province

For a brief period about two years ago, Tara Torrell, 32, would likely have voted for the BC Liberals, who were experiencing a rebirth of sorts under the stewardship of newly anointed premier Christy Clark.

At the time, Clark, fresh off her leadership win, was speaking about the importance of families and doing stuff like slinging coffee during the morning rush at the Sunshine Diner, raising the minimum wage, and walking the beat with Vancouver police officers.

As someone who had voted NDP in the past, Torrell, a health-care worker, found Clark’s approach to politics refreshing, engaging and, at the time, in-line with her personal values as a voter.   

“I actually liked her,” Torrell said. “Because she was new and you are thinking ‘OK, she might have a different approach.’ She had been a talk-show host so you are thinking she is a little more connected to the community and maybe she can bring forth her ideas.”

The polls from the time suggest Torrell wasn’t alone in her thinking. 

According to a March 2011 survey from Angus Reid Public Opinion, the Liberals had surpassed the NDP by five points, a considerable feat given the months-long beating the party, and then leader Gordon Campbell, had taken over the mishandling of the HST.

Public anger over the tax had been so great that just four months earlier, in November 2010, the NDP had amassed a 21-point lead over the governing Liberals. Campbell, his personal approval ratings at 12 per cent, resigned from office that same month. 

But with a fresh face at the helm, the March 2011 poll suggested voters were prepared to offer the BC Liberals another chance. 

More interesting, however, was that the results showed the Liberals were gaining traction among women voters, which suggested Clark’s play to the so-called softer issues of family and affordability — historically NDP territory — was resonating. 

“That is when women said: Hey, this is interesting, this is a person who is here for me,” said Mario Canseco, vice-president of polling firm Angus Reid Public Opinion. 

“It was because she was connecting on an issue that the NDP had dominated on for so long. And it disappeared so quickly.”

The Province wants to hear your thoughts on this election issue. There are five ways to tell us:

  • Comment at the bottom of this story. Reporter Cassidy Olivier will participate in the discussion.
  • Leave a voice message at our Election Hotline: 604-605-2688.
  • Find this story on our Facebook page and comment there.
  • Comment on Twitter using the hashtag #provelxn.
  • Email tabtips@theprovince.com

Within months the polls started to shift. Not only did the NDP open up a massive 20-point lead, Clark’s personal approval ratings nosedived. But perhaps more important was the gaping gender gap that quickly developed under Clark’s watch.

To be fair, the gap has always existed, as women voters have historically tended to support the party that has focused more on social issues (NDP) over the so-called centre-right issues of economy and crime (Social Credit, BC Liberals).

But the sheer size of it had some in the media suggesting it could be a defining factor in the election.

image

Mario Canseco, vice-president of the polling firm Angus Reid Public Opinion, says polls show Premier Christy Clark is facing a large gender gap. (Jenelle Schneider/PNG)

As early as last week, the divide stood at a commanding 19 points (48 per cent of female voters saying they will vote NDP compared to 29 per cent who said they will vote Liberal). By comparison, a poll taken right before the May 2009 election showed a gender gap of only four points.

An Angus Reid poll released Thursday, however, suggests the current gap has closed considerably, with 35 per cent of female voters now saying they will vote Liberal, compared to 45 per cent who said they will vote NDP. That’s a 6-per-cent gain within a week. 

An Ipsos Reid poll released Friday also noted a considerable narrowing — not quite as significant, though — with 50 per cent of women surveyed saying they will vote NDP, 30 per cent saying they will vote Liberal. (Last month it was 54 per cent NDP, 23 per cent Liberal.) 

This sudden narrowing could be a result of Clark’s concerted efforts to court the female vote via women’s events. It’s also possible that her messaging — strong economy equals strong families — may have started to resonate with women.

But it could also be the result of a fear factor as voting day inches closer, experts say.

The poll suggests that a small amount of disaffected Liberal female voters, who may have parked their vote with the NDP in protest, are reconsidering their choice as the campaign enters the home-stretch.

“Ultimately my view about women who voted for the Liberals under Campbell and were unconvinced about Clark’s leadership are looking at it in a more pragmatic way and saying, ‘I may be mad at them, …. but the fear of an NDP government at this point … is so much that I will be willing to forget them and vote for them again,” said Canseco. 

But even if the gap has narrowed to eight points, it doesn’t fully answer the questions around what appears to be a complex relationship between Clark and women voters: Is there a personal dislike or is it more of an issue of what her party represents? Is it a bit of both?

“Now it is like she is just a face,” Torrell said of Clark. “It’s like she is just following other people and not really doing the right thing.”

image

Tara Torrell isn’t feeling nearly as upbeat about Christy Clark now as she was when Clark first took over the Liberal leadership. (Jenelle Schneider/PNG)

Torrell’s comments go some way in supporting the argument pundits have put forward in an effort to explain what was, until this week, a potentially decisive gender gap: namely that Clark strikes many women as inauthentic.

“Fundamentally, I think the thing that is unnerving to women is this issue around authenticity,” said political commentator Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff. “Is she the person she purports to be? Is she sincere?”

This has been partly caused by the constant shift in messaging emanating from the Premier’s Office, explained Brown. 

There has also been Clark’s questionable handling of issues like Richard Branson’s offer to go kitesurfing in the buff and, earlier this year, her response to an admittedly crass query posed by a radio host where she stated that it was better to be a MILF than a cougar.

We hit the streets to find out what women think of Christy Clark. (Rafe Arnott/The Province)

“I think a lot of women, especially single moms, they almost resent her comparison as a single mother and really that is a bit of a credibility gap as well,” said Laila Yuile, a political columnist for 24 Hours. “Because her life as a single mother is so removed. So when she comes out and brings her son and talks about how hard it is to be a working mother, most women who are in the same situation, would actually just roll their eyes.”

But there are others, like Mary Polak, Liberal candidate in Langley, who have consistently maintained that there is a major disconnect between what the polls were saying and what was being said on the ground.

“I hear very positive things about her from women in my community,” said Polak.

The “Women 4 Christy” Facebook page, created by a self-proclaimed non-partisan group, supports this view.

Pollster Evi Mustel, meantime, said the gap has nothing to do with Clark’s personal stock among women. Mustel, who said she has been tracking the gap for a long time, recently said the gap isn’t nearly as large as the other polls suggest.

“Really, the numbers are exactly where they were when Gordon Campbell was in the same positions in the polls,” she said. “So my take is it is not so much a gender gap. I mean they have always had a problem with the gender gap, but it is not a Christy Clark problem — it is a Liberal Party problem.”

Polls aside, Torrell, for her part, is still undecided where she will cast her vote May 14. But it won’t be for the Liberals. 

“It is hard to say,” she said. “It’s 50-50 between the NDP and the Greens.”

WHAT THE POLLS SAY ABOUT CHRISTY CLARK

The ‘best premier’ question: 18 per cent

Approval rating: 27 per cent

Disapproval rating: 63 per cent

Momentum score: -38 per cent

— Angus Reid Public Opinion, April 16, 2013

Top four descriptives

Out of touch: 41 per cent

Arrogant : 39 per cent

Secretive: 33 per cent

Inefficient: 33 per cent

— Angus Reid Public Opinion, Feb. 5, 2013

"Who’s going to look after mom and dad?" is the question reporter Sam Cooper explored on Wednesday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

"Who’s going to look after mom and dad?" is the question reporter Sam Cooper explored on Wednesday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

Elsie Dean, president of the board of directors with the 411 Seniors Centre Society, is worried about seniors’ issues in the upcoming provincial election. (Jason Payne/PNG)
Who’s going to look after mom and dad?
By Sam Cooper, The Province
Elsie Dean is on the front lines of a potential crisis for seniors in B.C. 
The 89-year-old Burnaby woman volunteers with the 411 Seniors Society, so she literally hears the cries for help. From seniors living in isolation due to lack of home support and residential care spaces, to elderly citizens forced to leave homes because of skyrocketing rents, to HandyDart transportation routes cut. Last year, like many seniors, Dean was looking forward to positive reforms after provincial Ombudsperson Kim Carter published a series of investigations that exposed flaws in B.C.’s fragmented and hard-to-navigate senior care system. 

The Province wants to hear your thoughts on this election issue. There are five ways to tell us:
Comment at the bottom of this story. Reporter Sam Cooper will participate in the discussion.
Leave a voice message at our Election Hotline: 604-605-2688.
Find this story on our Facebook page and comment there.
Comment on Twitter using the hashtag #provelxn.
Email tabtips@theprovince.com. 

The Province’s national award-winning Boomerangst series — which recommended 10 policy and community-based solutions for system problems — was also influential in pointing to needed changes, the government said. 
About a year later, depending who you talk to, overhauls needed to handle B.C.’s rapidly aging population are basically complete, or lagging woefully.
“In some ways it is getting worse in the past year,” Elsie Dean said, adding the government has yet to buy into supporting crucial community, home support, and medical care programs.
“I find people living alone that never should be,” Dean said. 

Elsie Dean of the 411 Seniors Centre talks about what a good system for seniors might look like.
Ombudsperson Kim Carter said she sees progress on about 25 per cent of 176 recommendations made in her final report, “The Best of Care.”
Carter urged the government to clarify system standards and report crucial public information — expected wait times and available beds and services in different regions, for example. 
Two different sets of health system laws that provide varying rules and standards need to be harmonized, Carter said. Seniors and families needed better information and guidance to navigate the province’s bewildering and Byzantine system, Carter said. And perhaps most crucially, in line with all expert opinions, Carter stressed the need to shift health budgets towards community care and home support, with proper regulation and enforcement regimes.
The government has responded with better information for seniors on health authority websites, and there are more inspections of facilities, Carter told The Province. But little or no improvement in public reporting of key standards has occurred. And there has been no real response to the major recommendations concerning a new community-care model, which is strange, since there is universal agreement such a system would provide better service at big savings for taxpayers, Carter said. 

Ombudsperson Kim S. Carter made 176 recommendations in her report on seniors’ health care, ‘The Best of Care.’ She’s only seen progress on around 40 of them. (PNG files)
The top recommendation in The Province’s Boomerangst series was a call for an independent advocate for seniors, a position that Carter, the NDP, and countless seniors also asked for. In response, the government rolled out a “stakeholder” consultation to plan for such a position.
The feedback across B.C. was resounding: the position should be a strong, independent advocate, much like Children’s representative Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond. That’s why the government’s recent enactment of a senior’s advocate role that will be “buried” in the Ministry of Health and reporting to the government, “was a tremendous disappointment and real opportunity lost,” said BC Health Coalition co-chair Rick Turner. 
“They didn’t respond to what the community said was needed,” Turner said. “I’m left thinking the government was scared of criticism.”
Turner said on key recommendations made by both the Ombudsperson and The Province — such as moving to a community care health model, the government has basically failed to respond.
“More community care means more seniors could stay in their homes longer, instead of going to the hospital and taking expensive acute care beds,” Turner said. “If the resources are there for improved home and community support, you can take care of someone for about $30 bucks a day, instead of $1,200 per day in the hospital.”
Lyne England, a Victoria senior who attended the first of the consultations on the senior advocate position with then health minister Mike de Jong, said “the senior’s advocate has to be independent, much like Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond. Why do seniors deserve any less than children?”
On the campaign trail last week, NDP leader Adrian Dix said his party would replace the seniors’ advocate introduced by the Liberal government with a new independent seniors’ representative, at a cost of $14 million.  
Dix pledged at least $70 million over three years to improve home support for seniors and community care in the province, plus $35 million to improve residential care. 
 In an interview Katrine Conroy, the NDP’s seniors care critic, said despite the government’s efforts last year, the senior care system remains fragmented, so users are left rolling the dice and hoping for the best of care.
“We need to ensure there is care in place across the province, and it is well regulated,” Conroy said.
But MLA Ralph Sultan, who served as the first Minister of State for Seniors, said his government’s overhaul of the senior care system is adequate and, about “as done as it is going to be done.” 
Sultan says the “core ideas” from Kim Carter’s report have been implemented, and about 30 per cent of her recommendations — such as harmonizing laws and standards of care across the system — are impractical due to the “legalistic interpretation,” of Carter. 
Despite widespread criticism, the new seniors’ advocate will be adequately independent, highly paid, and “set their own agenda,” Sultan argued.
Sultan acknowledged that B.C. eventually must reform the health system towards a greater community care focus, to address aging society challenges. Currently, Sultan said, about 80 per cent of health budgets in B.C. are spent on acute care. That is in contrast to Denmark’s highly successful model, Sultan said, in which about 70 per cent is spent on community care, and 30 per cent on acute care. Sultan pointed to $20-million in home-support spending in 68 communities across B.C., in a three-year pilot project. The spending is “scratching the surface,” Sultan acknowledged, but is a start in the right direction.

BY THE NUMBERS
Perhaps more than any province, as a retirement mecca, B.C. faces the greatest challenges to fund skyrocketing costs associated to aging. 
By 2021, the population of seniors in the Lower Mainland will nearly double, reaching about 500,000. And according to provincial projections, over the next 10 years, the most elderly segments of the population will grow the most. The population group of 60 to 64-year-olds will grow 29 per cent. From 65 to 69, 52 per cent. From 70 to 74, 65 per cent. And from 75 to 79, 79 per cent. Those over 90 will have grown by 63 per cent. 
According to health-care experts, those aged 65-to-69 use twice the health services of those aged 45-to-49. A 75-year-old uses twice the health services of a 65-year-old, and an 85-year-old uses twice the health care of a person 10 years younger, on average. 
At the same time, as baby boomers retire, the workforce and tax-base is shrinking. After years of study and debate, there seems to be consensus that shifting resources to home and community care and away from large hospitals and acute-care beds, is the key to revamping health care for an aging society. But statistics show spending is heavily skewed to the old model. 
In 2011-12, B.C.’s health authorities spent $943 million on the home and community care, including residential care. In the same year, acute care cost the province $7.4 billion.
The cost of treating a senior in hospital is estimated to range from $825 to $1,968 per day, while residential care can cost less than $300 per day. 

Elsie Dean, president of the board of directors with the 411 Seniors Centre Society, is worried about seniors’ issues in the upcoming provincial election. (Jason Payne/PNG)

Who’s going to look after mom and dad?

By Sam Cooper, The Province

Elsie Dean is on the front lines of a potential crisis for seniors in B.C. 

The 89-year-old Burnaby woman volunteers with the 411 Seniors Society, so she literally hears the cries for help. From seniors living in isolation due to lack of home support and residential care spaces, to elderly citizens forced to leave homes because of skyrocketing rents, to HandyDart transportation routes cut. Last year, like many seniors, Dean was looking forward to positive reforms after provincial Ombudsperson Kim Carter published a series of investigations that exposed flaws in B.C.’s fragmented and hard-to-navigate senior care system. 

The Province wants to hear your thoughts on this election issue. There are five ways to tell us:

  • Comment at the bottom of this story. Reporter Sam Cooper will participate in the discussion.
  • Leave a voice message at our Election Hotline: 604-605-2688.
  • Find this story on our Facebook page and comment there.
  • Comment on Twitter using the hashtag #provelxn.
  • Email tabtips@theprovince.com

The Province’s national award-winning Boomerangst series — which recommended 10 policy and community-based solutions for system problems — was also influential in pointing to needed changes, the government said. 

About a year later, depending who you talk to, overhauls needed to handle B.C.’s rapidly aging population are basically complete, or lagging woefully.

“In some ways it is getting worse in the past year,” Elsie Dean said, adding the government has yet to buy into supporting crucial community, home support, and medical care programs.

“I find people living alone that never should be,” Dean said. 

Elsie Dean of the 411 Seniors Centre talks about what a good system for seniors might look like.

Ombudsperson Kim Carter said she sees progress on about 25 per cent of 176 recommendations made in her final report, “The Best of Care.”

Carter urged the government to clarify system standards and report crucial public information — expected wait times and available beds and services in different regions, for example. 

Two different sets of health system laws that provide varying rules and standards need to be harmonized, Carter said. Seniors and families needed better information and guidance to navigate the province’s bewildering and Byzantine system, Carter said. And perhaps most crucially, in line with all expert opinions, Carter stressed the need to shift health budgets towards community care and home support, with proper regulation and enforcement regimes.

The government has responded with better information for seniors on health authority websites, and there are more inspections of facilities, Carter told The Province. But little or no improvement in public reporting of key standards has occurred. And there has been no real response to the major recommendations concerning a new community-care model, which is strange, since there is universal agreement such a system would provide better service at big savings for taxpayers, Carter said. 

image

Ombudsperson Kim S. Carter made 176 recommendations in her report on seniors’ health care, ‘The Best of Care.’ She’s only seen progress on around 40 of them. (PNG files)

The top recommendation in The Province’s Boomerangst series was a call for an independent advocate for seniors, a position that Carter, the NDP, and countless seniors also asked for. In response, the government rolled out a “stakeholder” consultation to plan for such a position.

The feedback across B.C. was resounding: the position should be a strong, independent advocate, much like Children’s representative Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond. That’s why the government’s recent enactment of a senior’s advocate role that will be “buried” in the Ministry of Health and reporting to the government, “was a tremendous disappointment and real opportunity lost,” said BC Health Coalition co-chair Rick Turner. 

“They didn’t respond to what the community said was needed,” Turner said. “I’m left thinking the government was scared of criticism.”

Turner said on key recommendations made by both the Ombudsperson and The Province — such as moving to a community care health model, the government has basically failed to respond.

“More community care means more seniors could stay in their homes longer, instead of going to the hospital and taking expensive acute care beds,” Turner said. “If the resources are there for improved home and community support, you can take care of someone for about $30 bucks a day, instead of $1,200 per day in the hospital.”

Lyne England, a Victoria senior who attended the first of the consultations on the senior advocate position with then health minister Mike de Jong, said “the senior’s advocate has to be independent, much like Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond. Why do seniors deserve any less than children?”

On the campaign trail last week, NDP leader Adrian Dix said his party would replace the seniors’ advocate introduced by the Liberal government with a new independent seniors’ representative, at a cost of $14 million.  

Dix pledged at least $70 million over three years to improve home support for seniors and community care in the province, plus $35 million to improve residential care. 

 In an interview Katrine Conroy, the NDP’s seniors care critic, said despite the government’s efforts last year, the senior care system remains fragmented, so users are left rolling the dice and hoping for the best of care.

“We need to ensure there is care in place across the province, and it is well regulated,” Conroy said.

But MLA Ralph Sultan, who served as the first Minister of State for Seniors, said his government’s overhaul of the senior care system is adequate and, about “as done as it is going to be done.” 

Sultan says the “core ideas” from Kim Carter’s report have been implemented, and about 30 per cent of her recommendations — such as harmonizing laws and standards of care across the system — are impractical due to the “legalistic interpretation,” of Carter. 

Despite widespread criticism, the new seniors’ advocate will be adequately independent, highly paid, and “set their own agenda,” Sultan argued.

Sultan acknowledged that B.C. eventually must reform the health system towards a greater community care focus, to address aging society challenges. Currently, Sultan said, about 80 per cent of health budgets in B.C. are spent on acute care. That is in contrast to Denmark’s highly successful model, Sultan said, in which about 70 per cent is spent on community care, and 30 per cent on acute care. Sultan pointed to $20-million in home-support spending in 68 communities across B.C., in a three-year pilot project. The spending is “scratching the surface,” Sultan acknowledged, but is a start in the right direction.

BY THE NUMBERS

Perhaps more than any province, as a retirement mecca, B.C. faces the greatest challenges to fund skyrocketing costs associated to aging. 

By 2021, the population of seniors in the Lower Mainland will nearly double, reaching about 500,000. And according to provincial projections, over the next 10 years, the most elderly segments of the population will grow the most. The population group of 60 to 64-year-olds will grow 29 per cent. From 65 to 69, 52 per cent. From 70 to 74, 65 per cent. And from 75 to 79, 79 per cent. Those over 90 will have grown by 63 per cent. 

According to health-care experts, those aged 65-to-69 use twice the health services of those aged 45-to-49. A 75-year-old uses twice the health services of a 65-year-old, and an 85-year-old uses twice the health care of a person 10 years younger, on average. 

At the same time, as baby boomers retire, the workforce and tax-base is shrinking. After years of study and debate, there seems to be consensus that shifting resources to home and community care and away from large hospitals and acute-care beds, is the key to revamping health care for an aging society. But statistics show spending is heavily skewed to the old model. 

In 2011-12, B.C.’s health authorities spent $943 million on the home and community care, including residential care. In the same year, acute care cost the province $7.4 billion.

The cost of treating a senior in hospital is estimated to range from $825 to $1,968 per day, while residential care can cost less than $300 per day. 

"How will my tax burden change?" is the question reporter Cassidy Olivier explored on Sunday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

"How will my tax burden change?" is the question reporter Cassidy Olivier explored on Sunday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

Karen Turner feels taxed out, and feels the political system does not offer many choices when addressing her complaints. (Jason Payne/PNG)
How will my tax burden change?
By Cassidy Olivier, The Province
It wasn’t too long ago that Karen Turner was working for a Fortune 500 company and pulling in a fat paycheque. Now, the 60-year-old New Westminster resident who lost her job three years ago during a restructuring, counts every penny that leaves her wallet.  
Ever mindful of the high cost of living, Turner, a married mother of a grown daughter, now shops at Wal-Mart and fills her car up south of the border, where the gas is cheaper and her money goes farther.
Given the chance, she also likes to drop her two cents on a topic just about every British Columbian likes to weigh in on now and then: Taxes. 
And not just the ones with the big names. But also the little niggling ones that get passed on in the form of user fees. 

The Province wants to hear your thoughts on this election issue. There are five ways to tell us:
Comment at the bottom of this story. Reporter Cassidy Olivier will participate in the discussion.
Leave a voice message at our Election Hotline: 604-605-2688.
Find this story on our Facebook page and comment there.
Comment on Twitter using the hashtag #provelxn.
Email tabtips@theprovince.com.   

Taxed out? You bet, she says. The carbon tax? Get rid of it, she adds. What about property taxes? Someone needs to drop the hammer on municipal governments, she opines. Transit hikes? I will vote for the party that promises to rein in TransLink, she pledges. 
“All we want them to do is keep the taxes low and fix the potholes,” she says of government. 
“But there is a disconnect between what we elect them for, and then their legacies — what they think they are being elected for.”
As one of life’s only certainties, taxes will always be a source of public scorn. Exacerbating the situation, however, is the fact that they keep going up. 
As Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation recently wrote, taxes, fees and levies at all levels of government are set to go up in 2013. Some already have. And in Budget 2013, British Columbians got a taste of some the new ones to come. 
While personal income-tax rates in B.C. remain some of the lowest in the country, Bateman notes this has been offset by an increase in other taxes and levies, such as increases to medical services premiums, the carbon tax, hydro rates, bridge tolls and ferry rates. 

Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says that while B.C. has some of the lowest personal income tax rates in the country, this has been offset by an increase in other taxes and levies, such as increases to medical services premiums, the carbon tax, hydro rates, bridge tolls and ferry rates. (Nick Procaylo/PNG)
As the chunk of change being taken out of taxpayers’ pockets gets even larger — in 2012, said Bateman, a two-income family in B.C. earning $94,000 paid more than 44 per cent in taxes and levies — so does the level of resentment and concern. 
Underscoring a lot of that concern is the current provincial government’s questionable use of taxpayer money for a range of head-shaking projects, from domino ads to a foreign awards show that will cost British Columbians $11 million. 
“I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with how inefficient government is,” said Bateman. “And I think that is why, for example, the job ads have been such a flashpoint. [People] look at that and say, ‘This is not what I should be taxed to pay for.’ And they are right.”
Indeed. In response to a call out to readers for their thoughts on taxes and the rising cost of living in the run-up to the provincial election, The Province was flooded with replies. The short and sweet of it was: We pay too much and don’t get enough back. 
“With the cost of the carbon tax and tolls and everything else that seems to be going up and up, I can barely afford food on the table,” wrote one reader from North Vancouver.
“We pay far too many taxes to support special interest groups, leaving us little to spend on ourselves,” wrote another reader, a senior living on a fixed income. “Sometimes we feel that there are 11 groups each asking for 10 per cent of our income.”
“We’re taxed on our income, then we pay tax on just about everything else we purchase,” wrote another reader. “With Metro Vancouver being one of the most expensive places to live, we’re not getting very far and it doesn’t look good.”
B.C.’s political parties, meantime, have used this discontent to score points: the Liberals by warning that the NDP will raise taxes, and the NDP and B.C. Conservatives by consistently underscoring the government’s continued waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash. 
Largely lost in the mud throwing are the main tax policies that each party is proposing.
After ringing the alarm bells on the NDP’s proposed tax hikes, the Liberals — determined to table a “balanced” budget in the months before the election — introduced their own hikes in Budget 2013 that mirrored some of the NDP’s intended moves. 
To the chagrin of the business community, the 10 per cent corporate tax rate will increase under both administrations (Liberals will raise it to 11 per cent, the NDP to 12 per cent) as will the personal tax rate of people earning more than $150,000.
The Liberals have also proposed a temporary, two-year increase of the personal income-tax rate of high-income earners (more than $150,000) from 14.7 per cent to 16.8 per cent, effective Jan. 1, 2014., which the government said will generate an estimated $400 million.
In terms of tax relief, Premier Christy Clark announced as part of her election platform a slight reduction of the small business tax to from 2.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent by the 2017-18 fiscal year. 
The NDP has said it will reintroduce a capital tax on financial institutions to fund its needs-based student grant program. The party is also proposing to expand the base of the carbon tax to cover “venting” emissions from the oil and gas sector, excluding chemical process emissions (cement, aluminum, lime) agriculture emissions and fugitive emissions.
And the personal income-tax rate of high-income earners will also go up under an NDP government, from 16.8 per cent to 19 per cent on taxable income over $150,000 effective Jan. 1, 2014.
The B.C. Conservatives, meantime, have promised to repeal the carbon tax and introduce tax credits to help offset the costs of bridge tolls and ferry rides. The Greens have proposed an increase of the carbon tax to $50 per tonne.  
While the pros and cons of these proposals will ultimately play a part in the decision-making process of British Columbians on May 14, at the end of the day, not a whole lot will change for the average taxpayer who will still face rising costs.
“If you want a government to do a lot, if you want a lot of publicly funded services, then the flip side of that is that the tax burden has to be higher in the long run to pay for it,” notes Jock Finlayson of the Business Council of B.C. “Unless you want to become like a Greece or a Japan and run deficit finance.”
But that doesn’t mean voters are powerless, said Bateman. He adds that governments should focus more on reining in their spending as opposed to burdening the taxpayer with tax hikes.
“The thing to do is get out and talk to the candidates in your riding,” he said. “There is that old saying, ‘If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.’ Let them know that money is tight in your family …[that] it is difficult to make ends meet right now and that the tax burden is one major reason why.”

Karen Turner feels taxed out, and feels the political system does not offer many choices when addressing her complaints. (Jason Payne/PNG)

How will my tax burden change?

By Cassidy Olivier, The Province

It wasn’t too long ago that Karen Turner was working for a Fortune 500 company and pulling in a fat paycheque. Now, the 60-year-old New Westminster resident who lost her job three years ago during a restructuring, counts every penny that leaves her wallet.  

Ever mindful of the high cost of living, Turner, a married mother of a grown daughter, now shops at Wal-Mart and fills her car up south of the border, where the gas is cheaper and her money goes farther.

Given the chance, she also likes to drop her two cents on a topic just about every British Columbian likes to weigh in on now and then: Taxes. 

And not just the ones with the big names. But also the little niggling ones that get passed on in the form of user fees. 

The Province wants to hear your thoughts on this election issue. There are five ways to tell us:

  • Comment at the bottom of this story. Reporter Cassidy Olivier will participate in the discussion.
  • Leave a voice message at our Election Hotline: 604-605-2688.
  • Find this story on our Facebook page and comment there.
  • Comment on Twitter using the hashtag #provelxn.
  • Email tabtips@theprovince.com.   

Taxed out? You bet, she says. The carbon tax? Get rid of it, she adds. What about property taxes? Someone needs to drop the hammer on municipal governments, she opines. Transit hikes? I will vote for the party that promises to rein in TransLink, she pledges. 

“All we want them to do is keep the taxes low and fix the potholes,” she says of government. 

“But there is a disconnect between what we elect them for, and then their legacies — what they think they are being elected for.”

As one of life’s only certainties, taxes will always be a source of public scorn. Exacerbating the situation, however, is the fact that they keep going up. 

As Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation recently wrote, taxes, fees and levies at all levels of government are set to go up in 2013. Some already have. And in Budget 2013, British Columbians got a taste of some the new ones to come. 

While personal income-tax rates in B.C. remain some of the lowest in the country, Bateman notes this has been offset by an increase in other taxes and levies, such as increases to medical services premiums, the carbon tax, hydro rates, bridge tolls and ferry rates. 

image

Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says that while B.C. has some of the lowest personal income tax rates in the country, this has been offset by an increase in other taxes and levies, such as increases to medical services premiums, the carbon tax, hydro rates, bridge tolls and ferry rates. (Nick Procaylo/PNG)

As the chunk of change being taken out of taxpayers’ pockets gets even larger — in 2012, said Bateman, a two-income family in B.C. earning $94,000 paid more than 44 per cent in taxes and levies — so does the level of resentment and concern. 

Underscoring a lot of that concern is the current provincial government’s questionable use of taxpayer money for a range of head-shaking projects, from domino ads to a foreign awards show that will cost British Columbians $11 million. 

“I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with how inefficient government is,” said Bateman. “And I think that is why, for example, the job ads have been such a flashpoint. [People] look at that and say, ‘This is not what I should be taxed to pay for.’ And they are right.”

Indeed. In response to a call out to readers for their thoughts on taxes and the rising cost of living in the run-up to the provincial election, The Province was flooded with replies. The short and sweet of it was: We pay too much and don’t get enough back. 

“With the cost of the carbon tax and tolls and everything else that seems to be going up and up, I can barely afford food on the table,” wrote one reader from North Vancouver.

“We pay far too many taxes to support special interest groups, leaving us little to spend on ourselves,” wrote another reader, a senior living on a fixed income. “Sometimes we feel that there are 11 groups each asking for 10 per cent of our income.”

“We’re taxed on our income, then we pay tax on just about everything else we purchase,” wrote another reader. “With Metro Vancouver being one of the most expensive places to live, we’re not getting very far and it doesn’t look good.”

B.C.’s political parties, meantime, have used this discontent to score points: the Liberals by warning that the NDP will raise taxes, and the NDP and B.C. Conservatives by consistently underscoring the government’s continued waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash. 

Largely lost in the mud throwing are the main tax policies that each party is proposing.

After ringing the alarm bells on the NDP’s proposed tax hikes, the Liberals — determined to table a “balanced” budget in the months before the election — introduced their own hikes in Budget 2013 that mirrored some of the NDP’s intended moves. 

To the chagrin of the business community, the 10 per cent corporate tax rate will increase under both administrations (Liberals will raise it to 11 per cent, the NDP to 12 per cent) as will the personal tax rate of people earning more than $150,000.

The Liberals have also proposed a temporary, two-year increase of the personal income-tax rate of high-income earners (more than $150,000) from 14.7 per cent to 16.8 per cent, effective Jan. 1, 2014., which the government said will generate an estimated $400 million.

In terms of tax relief, Premier Christy Clark announced as part of her election platform a slight reduction of the small business tax to from 2.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent by the 2017-18 fiscal year. 

The NDP has said it will reintroduce a capital tax on financial institutions to fund its needs-based student grant program. The party is also proposing to expand the base of the carbon tax to cover “venting” emissions from the oil and gas sector, excluding chemical process emissions (cement, aluminum, lime) agriculture emissions and fugitive emissions.

And the personal income-tax rate of high-income earners will also go up under an NDP government, from 16.8 per cent to 19 per cent on taxable income over $150,000 effective Jan. 1, 2014.

The B.C. Conservatives, meantime, have promised to repeal the carbon tax and introduce tax credits to help offset the costs of bridge tolls and ferry rides. The Greens have proposed an increase of the carbon tax to $50 per tonne.  

While the pros and cons of these proposals will ultimately play a part in the decision-making process of British Columbians on May 14, at the end of the day, not a whole lot will change for the average taxpayer who will still face rising costs.

“If you want a government to do a lot, if you want a lot of publicly funded services, then the flip side of that is that the tax burden has to be higher in the long run to pay for it,” notes Jock Finlayson of the Business Council of B.C. “Unless you want to become like a Greece or a Japan and run deficit finance.”

But that doesn’t mean voters are powerless, said Bateman. He adds that governments should focus more on reining in their spending as opposed to burdening the taxpayer with tax hikes.

“The thing to do is get out and talk to the candidates in your riding,” he said. “There is that old saying, ‘If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.’ Let them know that money is tight in your family …[that] it is difficult to make ends meet right now and that the tax burden is one major reason why.”

"How do we fix public education?" is the question reporter Elaine O’Connor explored on Wednesday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

"How do we fix public education?" is the question reporter Elaine O’Connor explored on Wednesday. Click here to read the responses we collected.

A retired schoolteacher is worried about what’s happening in B.C.’s education system.