The provincial budget unveiled by the BC Liberals on Tuesday does not address many of the needs of British Columbians, says Alberni-Pacific Rim NDP MLA Scott Fraser.
“It’s a disappointing budget on so many levels,” Fraser said after BC Finance Minister Kevin Falcon released the budget at the Legislature in Victoria.
With the budget, the government has said it will restrict spending increases, keep small business tax and perhaps increase the corporate tax rate by one per cent in order to balance its budget before the 2013 election.
Falcon’s first budget has a deficit of $969 million for the fiscal year starting April 1, as B.C. pays to end the harmonized sales tax. Most of its modest spending growth will occur in health and education.
What the budget doesn’t do is address child poverty, post-secondary education or seniors, Fraser said. “We have the highest child poverty rate in the country. We have the biggest income gap in the country…this continues along that way,” Fraser said.
“There is nothing for the middle class, nothing for families except for further increases; more MSP increases for health care.”
While the NDP is preaching changes to the corporate tax structure, Fraser said the BC Liberals’ language on the matter is weak at best. Major tax breaks still exist for large corporations and Falcon did not commit to an increase. He said the government would consider raising the rate to 11 per cent, but not until 2013 and only depending on financial conditions.
Fraser also had a problem with proposed cuts to post-secondary education–a sector that can least afford it, he said. Fraser would have liked to see the Liberals invest in post-secondary education to ease student debt, and to address a looming skills shortage.
“It’s been identified as a priority for the B.C. economy and jobs. We need to be investing in these jobs,” Fraser said.
The budget also ignored recommendations made in the ombudsman’s report on seniors released recently, as well as the auditor general’s report on the state of forestry, released last week.
“I see this as a nothing budget, but a dangerous nothing budget at a time when we needed leadership,” Fraser said.
BC Conservatives leader John Cummins called the budget another “fudge-it budget“, saying the Liberals are raising taxes “on the most productive part of our economy–small businesses.”
The BC Greens are worried that the Liberals are “staking B.C.’s future on trade of our non-renewable resources, gambling revenue and consumer spending, and revenue from our crown corporations which the auditor general has questioned,” leader Jane Sterk said in a release.
“Greens notice that missing from the budget and the language used to frame the decisions are any dollars for climate change, food security, community based energy production, affordable market housing, energy efficiency retrofits and water security. These are all investments that would help diversify the economy.”
— With files from Tom Fletcher, legislative reporter for Black Press