BC Politics with Hubert Beyer

Archives of British Columbia's most well read Political Columnist




Hubert Beyer, Biography

Hubert Beyer was widely known as one of Canada's most read journalists. His columns were published regularly in most BC Community Newspapers, and his perspective sought on the Federal level as well as by NORAD in the US, Beyer lived up to his reputation as the "Fairest of them All."

Born in a small village in West Germany, Beyer immigrated to Canada in his 20s where he married and had 4 children.

A German Language publication in Winnipeg was Beyer's first foray into writing in Canada, it was soon followed with work at the Winnipeg Free Press as a Reporter covering many different beats. more

Top Search: Forestry

Find out what Beyer had to say about Forestry in BC through the years. With the forestry industry supporting a large segment of employment and opportunity in British Columbia, it's no surprise that it's a top search.

Top Search: Elections

Election are always a hot topicAnytime the faintest hint of a provincial or federal election announcement draws near, the search for quotes and history on past British Columbia elections starts to climb.

Top Search: Budget Release

When is the Budget not a hot searchProvincial Bugets are introduced with fanfare and fraught with talk from pundits, experts and critics. Take a few minutes to see how BC Budgets of the past were often projections of the future. 


VICTORIA -- Let's give credit where credit is due. Provincial finances have never been in better shape since we got hammered by the 1982 recession.

According to Finance Minister Mel Couvelier's second quarterly financial report, covering the first six months of the current fiscal year, provincial coffers show a healthy surplus of $129 million. At the same time last year, we were already $351 million in the hole.

In terms of squeezing tax dollars out of us and spending them, the picture looks this way: six months into the fiscal year, the government collected $5.7 billion and spent $ 5.6 billion. That's $607 million more in revenue than the previous year, while spending was up by only $127 million.

But that isn't all. After selling everything that isn't nailed down, the government has $776 million in its Budget Stabilization Fund. About $33 million in interest, earned on that fund during the first six months, have already been transferred to general revenue.

Even Couvelier is surprised by the results of the government's privatization drive. He says the revenue from selling government property and services is much higher than expected and he wants to cap the B.S. Fund at $500 million.

Couvelier says he believes the government can achieve its goal of keeping the deficit for the current fiscal year to $395 million. That's nice but hardly a daring prediction. After all, if the B.S. Fund were scrapped and all the privatization proceeds rolled into general revenue, the government would have a fat surplus.

Still, British Columbia's economic health has greatly improved since the recession ushered in billion©dollar deficits. Prospects for a balanced budget are no longer utopian.

Most economic indicators look promising and point to an overall economic growth of 3.5 per cent for 1988. That's a range economists like because it's healthy but not inflationary.

One of the most important economic indicators is retail spending. It is the first to drop when the public loses confidence in the economy. Instead of spending their money on consumer goods, which keeps the wheels of the economy grinding happily away, they put it in the bank where it doesn't do anyone any good.

At an increase of 8.5 per cent for the eight months of this year, compared with 1987, retail sales were strong. Exports, another significant contributor to economic well-being, rose by 14.4 per cent during the first seven months of this year, and manufacturing shipments were up by 7.2 per cent during the first eight months.

Two economic sectors performed less than satisfactory than employment and housing starts. Although down two percentage points from the previous year, unemployment still stood at 10.4 per cent by the end of October. And housing starts were up by only 1.1 per cent.

The overall economic performance places British Columbia well ahead of the United States which expects a growth rate of about 2 per cent this year.

Couvelier's report also mentions West Germany's strong growth,

attributing it to the better-than-expected economic performance of its European trading partners. Perhaps, there's a lesson here about the benefits of free trade, enjoyed by the European Economic Community.

Health care remains the most expensive budget item. Six months into the fiscal year, the health ministry spent $1.85 billion, up $128 million from the previous year. That increase is the result of hectic spending on hospital construction initiated by the government after mounting criticism over its tight-fisted health care policy.

Word is, by the way, that in next year's budget, health will crash through the $4 billion mark. To think that I covered the goings on here when the entire provincial budget was under $3 billion.

The education ministry pretty well kept a lid on its budget. Total expenditures were $1.1 billion during the first six months, only $10 million more than during the corresponding period last year.

Transportation and highways spent $296 million the first six months, a decrease of 27 per cent from last year's $410 million, but Couvelier says there will probably be an increase in spending during the second half of the fiscal year.

You may disagree with the philosophy that guides this government's policies on how it collects and spends our money, but you can't accuse the Vander Zalm administration of overall fiscal irresponsibility.

Reducing welfare benefits for socalled employable clients by $50 may be ill-advised at best or callous at worst, but it's perfectly in line with what the government perceives as its mandate ©© to keep down spending. And Couvelier's report shows that the government is living up to that mandate.

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