Budget 2013 lacks vision for the role of government in BC, says Green Party of BC leader Jane Sterk
Victoria - Today’s provincial budget presented by Minister of Finance Michael de Jong indicates that expenditures will be driven by the bottom line rather than the value and outcome of programs. “The Green Party believes that we should live within our means and is skeptical that the government has balanced its budget,” Green Party of BC leader Jane Sterk comments, “A balanced budget must be seen as a responsible tool for increasing citizen’s quality of living, and the efficiency and efficacy of government services. This budget does not present a solid vision for the future of British Columbia. Instead, the expenditures and investments seem to have been haphazardly derived, simply as ends in themselves.”
The Green Party of BC questions a number of striking decisions revealed by Budget 2013 indicating a significant lack of vision for the long-term and offered alternatives:
- Government property and asset sales are explained as an ongoing feature of government operations, yet it is one of “four key steps” to achieving the projected budget surplus in 2013 and 2014. This implies property and asset sales were poorly managed in the past and / or that this is a fire-sale to balance the budget.
- The government property asset sale is also short-sighted in that it will generate a temporary source of revenue over two years. The Green Party wonders if alternate public-use for these properties has been investigated. Their sale should be carefully considered and shared with the public before listings are finalized. We do not want us to regret fire sales in three to five years.
- The BC Training and Education Savings Grant (BCTESG) supports young people’s access to education, which Sterk commends as a positive step. However, Sterk qualifies that these individual grants of $1,200, which are forecast to cost the government $30 million in its first year assuming 57% of eligible families apply for the program, could be redirected to the advanced educational institutions in BC. These institutions are in need of additional funding. Presidents of BC research universities recently commented that an investment of at least $100 million is needed per annum in order to maintain current levels of training and instruction. These funds could also be used to reduce financial barriers to access to advanced education.
- Moreover, the BCTESG does not provide solutions to the absence of vocation-demanding jobs and meaningful employment within BC after students graduate from post-secondary institutions. Full employment is meaningless if citizens are under-employed.
- The Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development loses a significant amount of funding, which appears to result in a dramatic reduction of transfers to local governments. This represents a downloading of services that directly influence quality of life. It will also increase the cost of housing.
- Hidden tax increases are present in the budget in addition to the ones mentioned. For example, families and individuals will be faced with a 4% increase in healthcare premiums. In addition, the budget proposes selected subsidies without attention to a purposeful and systematic strategy, such as the elimination of carbon tax on coloured fuel.
Sterk is also concerned that the government’s revenue estimates are very unreliable. In particular, a major portion of revenue is projected to be generated by increasing resource exports to international markets. Continuing to rely on resource revenue does not provide a stable future for BC’s economy. Sterk suggested that revenue projections cannot be developed simply by an evaluation of market trends. They should also be vetted by people who are sensitive to family, community, and global realities in addition to economists.
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Craig Spence, Press Secretary