Sunday, May 03, 2009

Campaign Day 20 (cont'd)....Is Gordon Campbell Playing By The AARL Rules?


Paul Willcocks has a fantastic analysis up on the "the rising cost of a six pack of (private) beer non-issue" that was Wurlitzered by Gordon Campbell's 'friends' on Friday afternoon (ie. this is the document dump I guessed wrong on..... I took a wild-eyed, totally demented guess and suggested it might turn out to be Bill Bennett proclaiming that Wilf Hanni is actually his long lost ideological half step-brother).


I'm going to re-cap some of the more salient points of Paul's analysis and then give you my own, which I left in the comments at his place.


Because I think this entire thing clearly demonstrates how the BC Liberal Party War Room, now that they are running a little scared after that Angus Reid poll, have re-opened their well-worn (yet hermetically-sealed-when-not-in-use-so-that-it-can-be-passed-secretly,-through-underground-tunnels-and -feverswamps-between-true-cons) copy of the Atwater/Ailes/Rove/Luntz playbook:

So, here goes.....

Paul's stuff is first:

....Private liquor stores are miffed at the NDP plan to roll back price breaks the Liberals have handed them in the last few years...

{snippety doo-dah}

....Here's (a) primer. When the Liberals decided to allow private liquor stores in 2002, they said the operators could buy their stock at 10 per cent (below) the retail price in the province's liquor stores.....


...But the Liberals did mess up the whole privatization effort. They told private operators the public stores would be closing.

Then - a little late, really - the government looked at the numbers. Closing the public stores would mean a big drop in government revenues, and thus higher taxes. There was no public advantage, just a big cost.

That wasn't fair to the private operators, changing the rules after they had invested.

So to sweeten the deal, the government gave them a bigger discount - 12 per cent. For a store doing $2 million in sales, that meant an extra $40,000 a year in profits.

Not enough, said the stores. They kept lobbying and the next year got the discount raised to 13 per cent.

And, naturally enough, they kept lobbying - insider Patrick Kinsella was involved with one of the largest companies - and in 2007 John Les quietly gave the private stores another windfall. The discount jumped to 16 per cent.

There was no public benefit. Quite the opposite - every time the government increased the price break for private stores, it reduced its own revenues. And that means taxes had to go up.

And there was no economic case for the change. Stores weren't closing. In fact, in the year before the last gift, the number of private stores increased by 10 per cent and the leading company said it planned more expansion.

The government just offered a series of gifts to the private companies, at your expense. The discounts will mean more than $50 million a year transferred from government to a select group of private businesses....


Did you get all that?

Gordon Campbell made promises to his friends, then screwed them over (but only kinda/sorta) when it became politically expedient to do so. But to keep them happy he brought in the 'insider' (I think Paul is being too kind here; in my opinion Mr. Kinsella, the insider who would not register as a lobbyist, should be called a 'fixer' based on the evidence).

And what did the fixer do?

He helped the 'friends' get sweetheart deals from Mr. Campbell himself that just kept on coming.

And kept on costing us (ie. you and me both) money.

But that's not the end of the story.....

For that we head back to Mr. Willcocks:

....The NDP, looking for revenue to support spending increases, said in its platform it would rescind the changes and take the discounts back to their original, 10-per-cent level. That would produce $155 million over three years, the party says.

Horrors, says the industry. The change would mean the companies would pay an extra 80 cents wholesale for a six pack of beer, which they would pass on to their customers. People seeking convenience would pay; the frugal would likely go to a government store....


Paul does go on to say that cutting all the way back to the original 10% discount may be a little harsh, but that is not the point.

The point is that the NDP stepped in to try and really 'fix' a problem that was made worse by the actions of Gordon Campbell's fixer acting to help out and re-influence Gordon Campell's friends (and well-connected fund-raising uncles).

In other words, if the Lotuslandian pro-media were really paying attention (which they hardly ever do between noon on Friday and 10:30am on Monday which, of course, is why these things are so often launched late on Friday) they would stop running the cheap and easy (and lazy) headers that are all a variation on the....

'If the NDP wins the cost of your beer will be going up!!!!'

...theme rather than reasoning out who really caused the problem (as Mr. Willcocks has taken the time and effort to do, presumably on a Saturday - bravo!).

However, at the end of his piece Paul did say something that rubbed me a little bit the wrong way, not because I disagree with anything in his analysis, but because I think it throws a little sand on the bigger picture.

Here is that closing line:

....Let's get back to the real issues....

And because of that closing line, I felt the need to respond thusly (I hope Paul doesn't take too much offense but, as anybody who stops by here with any regularity knows, this obfuscatory spinning not being called out for what it is really sticks in my craw because I think it is one of the major reasons why public discourse has become so atrophied in these modern times):

Sure all means let's get back to the real issues...

Right after the following recap of your excellent analysis of Mr. Campbell's actions on this one not-so-real(ly important) issue:

#1 Make costly promises you can't keep, even to your friends.

#2 Bring in someone to help 'fix' things by opening the door to never-ending sweetheart deals that cost the public dearly, all in an effort to make things good with your friends again after the fact.

#3 Subsequently use your own fixer's sweetheart deals to generate a bogus election issue that just might help put you back over the top.


So what are the real issues here, especially given that you could do this type of analysis with a whole raft of other group/policy/privatization issues that have been 'fixed' by Mr. Campbell et al.?

Well, to my mind at least, the real issues exposed by your analysis are:

A) Mismanagement of the public purse

B) Poor stewardship of the public interest.

And are not the combined abilities of managing the public purse effectively and acting as a good steward of the public interest the very things that Mr. Campbell would most like us to believe are his strongest suits as election day approaches?

Therefore, in closing, I would like to suggest that the way that Mr. Campbell's War Room and his friends have attempted to Wurlitzer his own bad management and bad stewardship on this particular not-so-real issue into a negative for his opponent, who, as you have made clear in your analysis, is only pledging to correct the problem, really is a really big issue.


Oh, and for those playing the 'Battling Pols' game at home ....The way this has been done (ie. the wurlitzer-generated sliming of the opponent with negatives that are actually your own) is straight out of the Atwater/Ailes/Rove/Luntz playbook (page 67, paragraph 3).

Apologies to those who are waiting for my analysis of the anticipatory deflector spin puff-piece in the VSun yesterday... Mr. Willcocks, whose stuff I always look for on Sunday mornings, got in the way with his piece (and I'd way rather discuss 'real' issues anyway, ha!)....I'll try and get back to the puff-piece later, but right now I've got to get out and get things done before the debate at 5:00pm.
And don't forget, Sean Holman and his posse are going to be Live-Blogging the debate....He's got some new-fangled, generation 3.7, almost IM real time/but screenable software thingy up there which should be interesting (and if doesn't work, I'm pretty sure I know who to blame....Regardless, I know I'm going to try and check in at Public Eye if I get the weeds pulled on time)....
Regarding that single-shot, one-hour, debate starting time of Sunday at five freaking p.m....Why would a front runner want to bury a debate there I wonder?.....Hmmmm....Could it have anything to do with the thrashing he took in 2005?.....Which reminds me....Does the Preem have a new make-up artist this time 'round?....Why do I ask?.....Well, enquiring minds, and Andrea Reimer, sure want to know....


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