Nelson-Creston’s provincial representative says Tuesday’s budget “is a lot of rhetoric and not a lot of action.”
MLA Michelle Mungall is critical of the budget unveiled Tuesday in BC’s legislature.
“What I have seen so far, and more than I ever saw under Gordon Campbell, is a lot of rhetoric and not a lot of action,” the New Democrat told the Star. “They say one thing and do another. They call it a family first budget, but from what I see it’s families last.”
Finance Minister Mike de Jong handed down BC’s second straight surplus budget Tuesday, with few spending and tax changes as the province plans to drive economic growth with natural gas exports.
“Economic growth and spending discipline mean we have some modest additional dollars — and I do emphasize modest — to help families,” said de Jong at a news conference.
Some of the budget highlights include holding steady on personal income tax with BC’s personal rates remaining the lowest of any province.
Provincial funding for K-12 education continues at 2013 levels, however, and the budget announced another four per cent increase in Medical Services Plan premiums for next year. That makes increases totalling more than 30 per cent over the past five years.
As Opposition Critic for Social Development, Mungall took notice of tuition increases, insurance rates rising, ferry rates rising and Hydro rates climbing on top of increased MSP premiums.
“These are all ways government is nickel and diming families. Their basic tax rates might not go up, but all these other costs are going up,” she said. “What I saw [in the budget] was that families are having to pay more but they’re getting less.”
Mungal was also hoping to finally hear the Liberals put forward a “real initiative” to tackle child poverty.
“I won’t be surprised to hear if, for the 11th year in a row, BC has the highest child poverty rate in the country,” she said. “That’s shameful. Nobody wants to hear that.”
The former advanced education critic points to Liberal cuts to post-secondary education for the 3rd year in a row.
Mungall also currently chairs the Opposition Women’s Caucus aiming to improve women’s equality in BC and bringing attention to issues that impact women and girls. She felt the Liberals throne speech promise to make a “violence-free BC” lacked backing in the budget.
“What a lovely slogan. Not a single dollar put behind it,” she said. “That’s important to people in Nelson-Creston, people working with anti-violence programs. Not a single dollar towards any specific initiatives.”
Minister de Jong said due to spending discipline, the government expects to end the current year with an operating surplus of $175 million, rising to $184 million next year, which.
B.C. and Saskatchewan are the only provinces to balance budgets this year.
-with files from Greg Nesteroff and Tom Fletcher