B.C. voters have spoken: Economy matters most
By Laura Jones
This bi-weekly column was published in 'The Province' May 16, 2013.
The night before the election a colleague quipped that it will be nice to stop talking about red lights and orange ties and get back to focusing on the substantive issues that people care about. The economy tops the list.
But before we leave the election behind, I would like to add my thanks to all the men and women who ran for office. You do us proud. Election nights and the days following remind us what a privilege it is to live in a free society where ideas get debated and people get a free vote.
The people who run for office deserve special thanks for making this possible. Running for office, like playing hockey, is a tough zero-sum game.
The pollsters got a lot wrong. The media didn't call this election either.
But there was one barometer of the public mood that proved accurate: A pre-election survey of small business owners.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business surveyed more than 1,000 small businesses in March on their support for possible policy commitments that leaders might make.
Support for keeping the budget balanced, paying down government debt and not increasing taxes exceeded ninety per cent.
A question on resource development showed a strong majority support; further developing the province's resources with appropriate environmental safeguards in place.
Small business owners are often a good barometer of public sentiment and these economic issues clearly were important to many British Columbians.
The Liberals made a number of strong commitments around the economy, including sticking to balancing the budget and introducing tougher penalties for ministers who miss budget targets, allocating 50 per cent of future surplus revenues to debt reduction and working toward eliminating the debt.
Now some advice for the new government: Stick to your commitments, keep your eyes squarely on the economy and do not take small business for granted.
Going into the election, a shocking 76 per cent of small businesses did not believe their priorities would receive attention during the election. It's nice that in many ways they were proven wrong by all parties.
But this sentiment reflects, in part, many recent policy decisions that have been very costly for small businesses, including the introduction of a new statutory holiday, three increases to the minimum wage and transitioning to the HST and then back to the PST.
Some pundits are already chalking this election up to charisma triumphing over bookish manner.
But give the electorate some credit.
Lipstick doesn't win elections, ideas do.
Now that the election is in the rear view mirror, it's time to make sure the government sticks to the economic ideas that have proven so popular.
Laura Jones is executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.