Dumb attack ads, and the real tax-cut winners

I'm baffled by the B.C. Liberals' focus on attacking the leaders of the other parties. So far, the efforts have looked amateurish and cynical, and have failed utterly to change public opinion.
Surely the critical issue for the party is finding ways to make people see Christy Clark more positively, not trying to slag the other guys.
The last Angus Reid poll found 28 per cent of British Columbians approve of Clark's work as premier; 53 per cent approve of the job Dix is doing as opposition leader. It's hard to see how any collection of low-budget attack ads are going to drag Dix down to less than 28 per cent.
There's certainly potential in pushing the NDP to commit to positions in advance of the election. (Though Dix will then remind people about the Liberals' promises not to bring in the HST, and ask what their positions are worth.)
But the attack ads seem pointless.
And they risk raising unintended issues.
The latest web attack, for example, says "When the NDP left government, a family of four earning $60,000 a year paid $1,970 more in provincial income tax than they do today," citing budget tables.
That's true enough. But the budget tables also calculate total provincial taxes - MSP, sales taxes, carbon tax.Those other taxes and fees went up $1,463 under the Liberals.
The family still pays less to the province - but $507 less, not $1,970. It's a dubious approach for a party trying to claim Dix is the one who can't be trusted.
And the ad opens the door to other tax questions.
The tax changes since 2001 under the Liberals have meant low income people pay much less to the province - 50 per cent less for a single person earning $25,000, 40 per cent less for a family of four earning $30,000.
But the next biggest beneficiary, given the budget examples, is a single person earning $80,000. He, or she, pays 28 per cent less than he did in 2001.
And a family of four earning $90,000 has received a bigger overall provincial tax cut - in dollars, and as a percentage - than a family earning $60,000.
Worse, the smallest reduction has been for a senior couple earning $30,000 in pension incomes. They're  paying three per cent less - $1.50 a week in tax relief.
Then, of course, there is the bigger assumption in the ads that tax cuts, in and of themselves, are automatically a good thing.
That family of four earning $60,000 is paying about $10 less a week to the province than it did in 2001. Maybe many of those families would consider it good value to pay the $10 if health care or education was improved for them and the people they care about.

Hey Honduras, you're making an airport mistake

I don't take public positions on what should or shouldn't happen in Honduras, mostly because I don't know anywhere near enough. (Though I've been surprised at the willingness of bloggers thousands of kilometres away in Canada to make firm and unsupported assertions about the country.)
But the plan to relocate the Tegucigalpa airport is an exception, in part because there's directly relevant Canadian experiences.
Tegucigalpa - Tegus - is the capital, a city of 1.3 million people. It's tightly nestled in a valley, and surrounded by mountains.
Which is not a good thing for airport construction. The existing airport, Toncontin, regularly makes the world's 10 scariest airport lists. A History Channel show, Extreme Airports, ranked it second. (Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, Nepal, topped the list.)
The Tegus approach requires pilots to skim the hills, make a sharp u-turn, plunge steeply and then hit the brakes hard once they're on the ground. Pilots receive special training if they're assigned to the route.
When we flew into the county in January, we were sitting next to a young Honduran flying back from the U.S. We took it as a bad sign when he began fervently praying as we started our approach.
But, on the positive side, the airport is just six kms from the city centre. And, while landings and takeoffs can be challenging, there hasn't been an 'incident,' as airlines like to say, since the runway was lengthened in 2009. (After a 2008 crash that killed five people.)
The government has decided it would be better to move the airport, which might not be a bad idea. But it has also decided to build a new $125 million airport at a military airfield at Comayagua, 80 kilometres from Tegucigalpa. (The airfield is used by the Honduran airforce and U.S. units.)
It's not an easy 80 kms to travel. The highway climbs through steep mountains and the entrance to the city is chronically congested. The trip is certainly over an hour. Anyone catching a flight out of Tegucigalpa would have to allow much more time in case of traffic problems.
This should all sound familiar to Canadians. In the mid-1970s, governments spent about $500 million building Mirabel Airport about 40 kms from Montreal. It was a complete flop, despite good highways, because travellers and airlines wanted to keep using the existing airport at Dorval, about 15 kilometres from the city. There is little or no use by airlines, and the runways have been leased for car racing.
ALG Europraxis, consultants hired by the Honduran Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Investment, have offered warnings about the plan. Anything over 40 kms is considered a remote airport, the firm warns.
So I'm breaking my rule about the airport plan. Don't do it, Honduras.


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