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Will Liberals present a 'shock doctrine' budget?

In the run-up to tomorrow's B.C. budget, funding cuts have some observers thinking that Finance Minister Colin Hansen has been reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Many community groups and institutions have been stunned by sudden withdrawal of support.

Vancouver and many other school districts lost $10.6 million in facilities funding that was supposed to pay for building upgrades.

Arts groups, supported largely by casino revenues, found that the wages of sin are $20 million less than expected.

Tourism BC, funded by a hotel room tax, has been shut down and folded into the government, reportedly to save money.

Readers of Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine might see a familiar pattern here: A disaster followed by political changes no one had expected or voted for.

In an interview with The Tyee, Seth Klein -- director of the Vancouver office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Naomi Klein's brother -- didn't reject the idea that Hansen's budget might be a new example of the shock doctrine:

"The Liberals aren't manufacturing the severity of the downturn. We anticipate a budget deficit of between $3 billion and $4 billion.

"The crises taken advantage of are sometimes manufactured, and sometimes they land in your lap. We think it's wrong to assume that the federal and B.C. governments see their deficits as only bad news.

"The immediate consequences of running deficits can be painful, but deficits give them a chance to get back to their core mission: to shrink the size of government."

Klein cited a recent CCPA "reality check" on the provincial budget that argues the present deficit is cyclical, not structural, and cuts will only make matters worse.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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