Have a read of the following passage, after which I will ask you a question about it:
A New Democrat government will control government spending openly and responsibly. We can’t solve every problem overnight. We will set priorities. New Democrat programs will be affordable and within our means. We will not spend more than British Columbians can afford.
We will make sure that large profitable corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of ... taxes.
A New Democrat government will balance the budget over the business cycle...and keep taxes fair...for everyone.
So now the question: who said this?
You might think it was NDP leader Adrian Dix in one of his recent speeches to the business community. Over the past weeks and months, the NDP have begun laying out their fiscal policy in anticipation of the next election. What are we told to expect? A modest increase in corporate taxes. Re-instituting capital taxes on banks. Perhaps an increase in income taxes for the very well-to-do. It all sounds very measured. Or, as Vaughn Palmer put it in his column a couple of days ago, “Not exactly rampant socialism.”
It’s a message that sounds a lot like the passage I quoted above, doesn’t it?
Except that passage is actually from the 1991 NDP election platform.
Now I know there are folks out there who want us all to lay off the history lesson. Forget about the past, and concentrate on what the NDP are promising today. And after all, what they are promising today looks so reasonable - who could complain?
Except that they made the same fiscal policy promises in 1991. And once elected, they proceeded to break them. Big time.
It’s actually worse. In the immediate run up to the 1991 election NDP leader Mike Harcourt promised no new taxes, an even clearer and more definitive statement on tax policy than the passage I quoted from above. And yet within a few weeks of the October election he was already backtracking on that promise. As soon as November 29, 1991, Premier Harcourt was quoted in the media saying he had “not ruled out tax increases despite his ‘no new taxes’ pledge”.
And of course what followed were years and years of tax increases. Not just increases in existing taxes. They even created entirely new taxes. In the 1992 and 1994 budgets, for example, the NDP imposed $2 billion worth of new taxes on everything from personal to corporate income. Not just millions or hundreds of millions of dollars of new taxes. Billions.
In November 1991, after getting elected on the platform promises I quoted from above, Finance Minister Glen Clark said, “the NDP’s campaign promise to introduce only two new taxes - a minimum corporate tax and a high-income tax surcharge - may not be feasible in the short term.”
If that isn’t the definition of a Groundhog Day nightmare, I don’t know what is. Turns out that NDP tax policy before the 1991 election was pretty much exactly the same as NDP tax policy today. Some things, it seems, just don’t change.
So I want to be the first to say that I am interested in all of the policy proposals that the parties will offer voters in the run up to the election next May. There’s more to government than fiscal policy. But it all starts with fiscal policy, because that’s the foundation on which everything else is built. And on fiscal policy I know everything I need to know about the NDP. The NDP are on exactly the same trail today that they were 20 years ago. Their promises sound reasonable. And yet by the time the NDP were finished with tax “innovation” in the 1990’s, British Columbia had the highest marginal tax rates in North America and we were a have-not province, dependent upon handouts from the rest of the country to support government spending.
Anybody feel like trying that experiment again?