Published in the Victoria Times Colonist, 11 May 2008
Statistics Canada has confirmed what many Greater Victorians have known for some time: B.C. Liberal “downsizing” since 2001 contributed to a drop in incomes. This might be a “puzzle” to economists and employers, likely because they never bore the brunt of Gordon Campbell’s cuts.
Across B.C., median incomes dropped three per cent between 2000 and 2005, after rising almost four per cent in the previous decade of NDP government. Campbell’s anti-labour policies and social program cuts go a long way in explaining this shift.
Restrictions on union organizing and bargaining slashed incomes of health-care and social-service workers. Women and recent immigrants were particularly hard hit: Wages of dietary and housekeeping staff in Greater Victoria hospitals dropped from nearly $20 per hour to around $10 per hour. Manufacturing workers also suffered from increased export of unprocessed commodities (such as raw logs to the U.S.). Social assistance cuts denied people with disabilities the meagre incomes necessary for shelter and food.
These steps were taken to “downsize” B.C. workers’ expectations and wages and expand the incomes of corporations and the affluent through tax cuts and privatization.
B.C.’s economy is now exhibiting signs of strength and a tightening labour market. But our economy has always been cyclical, and a downturn is inevitable in construction and all sectors. With Campbell’s leaner and meaner government, the downward income trend will not easily be reversed.
In the long term, British Columbia’s economic and social development is best served by a policy of equality.