VICTORIA—The 2016 provincial budget released today is more about re-positioning the BC Liberal government in advance of next year’s provincial election than it is about making a positive difference in the lives of working people, CUPE BC President Paul Faoro said today.
“British Columbia’s economy is forecast to outperform other provinces, which ought to present the BC Liberals with an opportunity to re-invest in key areas of government spending and public services that they have spent the past 15 years gutting,” said Faoro. “Premier Clark and her government continue to miss the point—British Columbians are suffering and only a few are sharing the prosperity generated by the economy.”
Faoro noted that the “balanced budget” depends on revenues from the property transfer tax—largely driven by the red-hot real estate market in Metro Vancouver—and questioned the government’s stated commitment to make home ownership a plausible option for more British Columbians. He also said that the amendments to Medical Services Plan premium assistance will continue to be the most regressive tax measure in British Columbia.
“It will now be the case that someone earning $51,000 per year will pay the same MSP premium as someone earning $5 million per year,” said Faoro. “In what alternate reality is that fair? Finance Minister de Jong says that MSP is ‘transparent’ and demonstrates that health care isn’t free. With all due respect to the minister, that’s not the issue—it’s the continued gouging of middle-income British Columbians through a tax that no one else in Canada pays at the same time as his government continues to cut taxes for the rich.”
Faoro said that funding for K-12 education is scheduled to increase but only by very small amounts over the coming three years. In 2015/16 net funding will rise by just $28 million, because the province is cutting $24 million from “administration.”
“Much of the spending now classed as ‘administration’ is really money spent on school clerical workers, trades and maintenance staff, custodians and bus drivers,” said Faoro. “All these support workers will be hurt by the Ministry’s mislabeled cuts. And these cuts come as the Liberals manage to find another $48 million in funding for private schools.”
Faoro also noted that school property taxes are set to increase at twice the rate of increased spending, signaling a significant shift in the burden of school funding to property taxpayers.
“These largely hidden shifts run at cross purposes to other budget measures aimed at reducing the barriers to first-time home ownership.”