B.C.’s Liberal government released their 2012 budget on Wednesday. Minister of Finance Kevin Falcon touted increased spending for health, education, and social services.
“Funding for the Ministry of Health will increase, as it has every year since 2001,” said the report. “In 2014/15, the budget will be $17.3 billion — $1.5 billion higher than it is today. Health care is projected to account for more than 42 per cent of total government spending by 2014/15.”
Falcon also touted a $4.7 million a year funding for school districts, “We will also invest an additional $165 million over three years to establish a fund to deal directly with issues of class composition.”
Falcon also detailed that the government is on track to eliminate the HST by April 1, 2013.
“Fiscal discipline is fundamental,” said Falcon. “That’s what we’re hearing from the international investment community. They know that a decade of sound fiscal management has given the government of British Columbia seven successive credit rating upgrades taking us to our current triple-A rating — the highest possible. We can all be proud of that.”
Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy, speaking from Victoria, said she and her fellow NDPers were not convinced the budget addressed the major problems facing families in the province.
“What we heard today – it just confirms a government that has no vision and it just continues to get its priorities wrong,” she said. “People in this province are struggling and they’ve put up with the liberals for 11 years and I think people were hoping for a budget that might give some hope for a better future.”
Conroy says the budget does not properly address inequality throughout B.C.
“There’s nothing to address the fact that one in four children live below the poverty line which is one of the highest rates in Canada,” she said. “There’s no poverty reduction plan anywhere in the budget that I could see.”
Conroy is also concerned about the lack of support for education and skills training.
Another hot button item in the budget is an increase to the Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums.
“The minister made a point that ‘It’s not going to cost much. It’s only $5 a month.’ But for some families, an additional $5 can be significant,” said Conroy. “In addition, they’re going to be paying for HST for another year. So those add up. For low income families those add up quickly. So that’s a concern.”
With a provincial election coming up in a year, Conroy said the Liberals are trying desparately to balance the budget.
“There’s a 3% increase in health – I don’t even think that will cover the cost of living increases,” she said.
“There’s nothing for post-secondary education. It looks like there will be a cut to that ministry. What does that mean? Selkirk College is already struggling. How will they deal with that?”