Robert Barron Gazette
Assessments of B.C.’s budget for 2017, tabled on Feb. 22, from the candidates in the Cowichan Valley for May’s provincial election are mixed.
Sonia Furstenau, who is running for the Green Party, said she found the budget “disappointing”.
She said that while the $52.2-billion budget plans for spending hikes in a number of areas, including education and health care, the fact that welfare rates will remain frozen, as they have been for the past decade, is a cause for deep concern.
“This government is completely out of touch with some of the most vulnerable people in the province,” she said.
“The Liberals say they are focused in people getting jobs, but people can’t be prepared to apply for jobs if they are only making $610 a month.”
Furstenau said the plan to half the premiums of the Medical Services Plan is commendable, but the fact that it won’t kick in until next year does little to address the unfairness of the program right now.
“Overall, we need a more fair and more progressive tax system in B.C.,” she said. “The Liberals have moved away from that.”
Liberal candidate Steve Housser said he found it “pretty remarkable” that the government has tabled five balanced budgets in a row.
He said B.C. is the envy of all the other provinces in this regard.
“These balanced budgets are built on the backs of prudent spending and the careful use of tax money in the province,” Housser said.
“We had to tighten our belts for awhile, but now we’re seeing some of the payback that was promised as a result. Now we have more spending on health, education and in other areas. This is being called a pre-election budget, but this is what the people were asking for.”
Housser said cuts to payments for the MSP are also pretty significant and people will be able to use that money elsewhere.
“The plan to eliminate the provincial sales tax on electricity is also good for business in B.C.,” he said.
NDP Lori Iannidinardo said that after reviewing the budget, she has concluded that, “once again”, the Liberals are out of touch with the province’s electorate and that Premier Christy Clark’s “rich friends” will continue to not pay their fair share.
She said the government has been raising MSP premiums for years and is now “patting itself on the back” for cuts that will merely take it back to the rates the premiums were years ago.
“It’s time that our elected government works for all the people of B.C. and not just those at the top (of the economy),” Iannidinardo said.
“There’s no talk of seniors in this budget, and there is a high percentage of seniors in the riding and on the Island. I believe we need to care for our most vulnerable citizens.”
James Anderson, Libertarian Party candidate for Cowichan Valley, said, “the main thing is that I don’t agree with government continuing to run a deficit. I think we should be looking at picking away at that public debt that we’ve got.
“As Canadians, we’re expected to budget our incomes and live within our means to support a government that continues to budget to live beyond theirs, which is sort of a backwards double standard in my opinion.”
Anderson was also concerned that money for services was being wasted on administration.
“The relation of funds allocated to specific programs and the government administration of those funds is almost identical. That seems absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
Independent candidate Ian Morrison said he’s “offended” by the government’s obvious efforts in the budget to “bribe us with our own money” as the election approaches. “I believe B.C.’s taxpayers are offended too,” he said.
“The removal of provincial sales tax on electricity makes sense, but why a phased approach? I think it should happen now. The same with the plan to phase out medical premiums; do it now.”
Morrison said that instead of trying to buy votes, the Liberals should restore clawed-back services.
“Put money back into kids in school, families and health care,” he said.
“That’s the real priority for many people, including those who are waiting for hip replacements. We have also seen a whole generation of kids robbed of their educations due to extremely large class sizes and composition.”