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B.C. Premier Christy Clark in Victoria, Tuesday March 27, 2012. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail/Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)
B.C. Premier Christy Clark in Victoria, Tuesday March 27, 2012. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail/Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

regional report

B.C. Liberals: Power and those polls Add to ...

B.C. Hydro is being set up for a fall, says the Salmon Arm Observer. First, the provincial government out-sourced part of the utility’s operations to a U.S. company. Then the government required B.C. Hydro to buy power from independent power producers beyond what was needed at a higher than market prices, with surplus power sold to California at rates less than what British Columbians are paying. Next, the government allowed the utility to defer costs, resulting in artificially low prices that are bound to catch up with users sooner or later. Most recently, the government mishandled the introduction of smart meters. Politics are threatening B.C. Hydro, the newspaper says, concluding: the government should just let the public utility operate free from political interference.

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Kelown’s Daily Courier would like to see less politics and more substance from the government. In an editorial by city editor Pat Bulmer, the newspaper says the B.C. Conservatives are catching up to the Liberals in recent polls partly because the Conservative politicians are “a plain-talking party that cuts through spin to give British Columbians some straight talk.” In a type of big announcement that once would have boosted the Liberals’ popularity, Premier Christy Clark recently talked about billions of dollars for transportation infrastructure. But it appeared Ms. Clark was simply repeating what was previously announced, the paper says. “The Liberals are struggling for credibility because the public is having trouble swallowing the credibility of announcements like these. But it’s not too late, yet, for Clark to realize this and improve her ways.”

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The Nanaimo News Bulletin says Ms. Clark should not yet bee counted out, even with her poor showing in recent opinion polls. The most recent poll has the B.C. Liberals all but annihilated if a general election were held today, with the NDP winning the four Liberal-held ridings on Vancouver Island. “Whatever is behind the latest numbers, it doesn’t mean much, despite what so many other media outlets, writers, talk-show blabbers and pundits would have you believe. It’s just one poll more than a year from the next . . . provincewide vote,” the newspaper says. “Rather than declaring the Liberals dead while they’re still plummeting, perhaps we should wait and see if they bounce, either before or after they hit bottom.”

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Meanwhile in federal politics...

Raising the duty-free limit on June 1 for 24-hour visits to the U.S. to $200, from $50, and for 48-hour trips to $800, from $400 has alarmed editorial writers as well as federal and provincial politicians along the border in southeastern B.C. “Feds throw another punch at Nelson area,” was the headline on an editorial in the Nelson Star .“The federal government doesn’t seem interested in making life any easier for commerce in the hinterlands,” the paper says. “For communities like Nelson, Trail and Castlegar, the move means weekend excursions to Spokane will likely add up to more dollars spent in an economy that provides no true local benefit.” The newspaper urges Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to “step away the from his Ottawa dreamland” and speak with local retailers. Local residents also have a choice to make, the paper adds. “Just like before the budget, those who truly care about this community need to look deep into their consumer value system before spending more disposable income afar.”

The Castlegar News had difficulty find “a hard-core bargain hound willing to go on record on cross-border shopping. But the politicians were not shy. “I think it wasn’t done with much though for places like rural B.C.,” Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy told the newspaper. New Democratic Party MP Alex Atamanenko, who represents the B.C. Southern Interior riding, speculated that higher duties were part of plans to harmonize the border with the Americans. “We have to be careful when we do that, that we don’t give away our rights. I believe that this duty is not good for local business, given the economic climate, given the fact that a lot of our border communities are struggling,” he said. The local chamber of commerce president Pam McLeod questioned the policy trade-off when higher limits promote economic stimulation on the U.S. side of the border.

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The Castlegar News also turned a spotlight on the purchase of new F-35 fighter jets. A lot of folks find the multi-billion dollar price tag for 65 new planes disconcerting. “Some are dead set against the outlay, while others are worried because of what needs will be pushed aside in the interest of modern armaments,” the newspaper says in an editorial. “There’s plenty to be said for being prepared . . . But maybe we should remember to keep within the budget [and]make sure some basic needs among the population are met. Maybe we could go for just 32 of the awesome warbirds... at least until the economic picture improves,” the newspaper suggests.

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