It has been a bleak week in the Legislature, with the tabling of the Government’s latest budget. Put simply it shows that the government’s priorities do not reflect the real needs of families or communities and do not respond to the economic inequalities or environmental issues in this province.
The BC Liberals claim it was “prudent”. But for the poor it is devastating; for the environment it’s a crime and for students it’s a debacle. It ignores our forest base and our rural communities.Ahead of the budget, in question period I again challenged the government about raw log exports: laid end to end, the number of logs exported last year alone would circumnavigate the globe one and a half times.
On the 100th anniversary of the BC Forestry Service, and in the wake of devastating reports on our forest health and sustainability, it was deeply disappointing to see no renewed commitment to one of our most basic resources.
It was just a few years ago that the BC Liberals painted themselves green ahead of an election. That veneer went this time: the carbon tax is likely to end and a tax on aviation fuel has been removed.
The budget included continued spending on the Premier’s office and on political advertising and there were tax breaks to some of the BC Liberals business friends. But there is no commitment to deal with poverty, with our justice system or with the tens of thousands of people who are being squeezed out of the middle class and are fast becoming the working poor.
The 4 percent increase in MSP means that a family pays $732 more today than they did in 2001 for their public health care. Further, this increase will have a negative impact on school districts, social services and other organisations who pay MSP on behalf of their employees but are getting no increase in their budgets.
On health care, I was very disappointed to see that there was no mention our new hospital. I will be following up with the Minister about why this is being ignored when it is a clear priority for our communities and, allegedly, on VIHA’s priority list.
As I noted in my response to the budget it gives the lie to the Premier’s so-called Families First agenda. There truly is nothing there for families except a risible tax credit for those who can afford private sports or arts classes for their children; and even that only will amount to about $25.
The HST is staying for another year, adding further to the high cost of living for families. And now the BC Liberals are going to hold a fire sale of our public assets: school buildings, parking lots and crown land. It’s like selling the family silver. We raised some of these concerns in question period. A particularly troubling issue is the insider lobbying for the sale of the liquor distribution warehouses: it appears that Patrick Kinsella, the ultimate BC Liberal backroom boy who was involved in the BC Rail sell off, lobbied for this latest off-loading of public assets on behalf of a corporate client.
We questioned the lack of commitment to seniors in the budget – despite the government supposedly having a new seniors’ programme and in the wake of the scathing report by the Ombudsperson.
And I raised the serious matter of the lack of money going to protect vulnerable children. Yes, the minister’s office is seeing an increase but those parts of the ministry that actually deliver services face a three year flat line which, considering inflation, translates into an effective cut for the most vulnerable in our society.
We’ve also been focusing on the government’s willful ignorance in the face of the pending massive skills shortage. The Liberals cut funding to post secondary education in this budget.
Earlier in the week we debated a bill which would prohibit faculty or students, who are union members, from sitting on board of governors. I spoke against this as flagrantly anti-democratic and again questioned the government’s priorities. We should, instead, have been discussing was funding for North Island College and other post secondary institutions as well as the high cost of education for students.
I was able to highlight a positive educational accomplishment: I told the House about the signing of the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement in Fort Rupert on Friday. It is a tremendously positive step; good quality public education is a great equaliser in our society.
I am on the road again this weekend, with the Forest Working Group tour: we’re visiting silviculture operations, community forests, mills, and value-added manufacturers in Surrey and through the Fraser Valley.
While I am not in the constituency office I can always be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org by phone at 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy, or 1 866 387 5100 toll free; or you can friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.