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 -- Happy days are here again. Government revenues are up, expenditures down; Finance Minister Mel Couvelier wants to balance the next budget, and prosperity for all British Columbians is just around the corner.

Well, not quite. True, the provincial government spent less than anticipated and took in more than expected, but we still went further into debt during the first nine months of the current fiscal year. When the budget was introduced last March, the government expected to add another $731 million to the province's total debt load by the end of December.

That's what's referred to as deficit financing. You spend more than you earn. Individuals get into a heap of trouble doing it, but governments get away with it.

When the end of December came around, the government had overspent its budget by only $369 million. In other words, the managers of our money didn't pile up the debts quite as badly as they planned to.

The finance minister must have felt a little sheepish about the whole thing, because he buried those figures on page two of the press release that accompanied the third quarterly financial report. The first page was reserved for different nuggets.

We were informed that economic growth for the nine-month period was three per cent, that unemployment was down to 10.1 per cent, that retail sales increased by 9.4 per cent and housing starts totalled 29,000, up 40 per cent from the previous year. While all these wonderful things were happening, inflation was kept at 3.1 per cent.

The debt load, however, increased. Total provincial government debt is now creeping up towards the $7 billion mark. If you roll in the Crown corporations, such as B.C. Hydro, it's closer to $14 billion. Paying the interest on direct government debt alone takes more than $500 million out of the annual budget.

If you and I were to find ourselves in such a dilemma, our banker would politely ask us what the hell happened, and no matter what the answer, he'd probably start foreclosure proceedings on our homes. Since nobody will foreclose on the Parliament Buildings, we can safely pop the same question to the government: what the hell happened? How did we get into this mess?

I've asked that question so many times that I could fill a book with the answers. Bill Bennett usually blamed it on the world recession. We have a resource-based economy, and nobody wants our resources anymore, the former premier used to lecture, as the debts kept mounting.

Well, there were some other reasons Bennett didn't really want to talk about. There was the bill for Expo; there was the cost of building the Skytrain; there was the Coquihalla Highway

boondoggle; there was B.C. Place Stadium; there was Northeast Coal. Those five mega projects contributed more than half to the total debt load.

And what have we got to show for all that money? A lovely stadium that will never make money, coal fields that constantly operate on the brink of financial disaster, a great transportation system for Vancouver that uses money for fuel, a highway, described by a colleague as the most expensive shortcut in the universe, and fading memories of hosting the world at great cost. Not the world's greatest cost-benefit ratio, I would say.

So now we look to the new Socreds for a way out. If promises count, things will improve. I'm not talking about Premier Vander Zalm's promises. All we got from him so far is the prediction that "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

The best guy to place your bets on is Couvelier. He has said he'll balance the next budget and pay back all debts within three years. I mentioned that in a previous column, you say? Damn right, I did. And I'll mention it again. It's one promise I don't intend to let the finance minister forget, because I can't see how he can possibly keep it. Then again, he may surprise us all.

The acid test will come when Couvelier brings down the 1988-89 budget sometime around March 20. If the two figures - one for total expenditures, the other for revenues -- are the same, bingo, we got a balanced budget.

If in addition to that, somewhere in the rows of expenditures, there should be a figure indicating repayment of past debts, not just interest, we can yell "bingo" again, because he will have taken the first step towards making British Columbia debt-free.

If, on the other hand, none of these things come to pass, it's time to shout "enough is enough."

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