By John Horgan
Victoria: Leading up to the release of the 2016 budget, Christy Clark’s government wanted British Columbians to believe they would finally catch a break.
But when the photo-ops were over and the public actually saw the details, it was revealed that there was nothing to address affordability.
Even those who got a break in this budget soon found that the premier was taking away as much as she was giving. Though support for people living with disabilities increased by $77 each month, nearly all of that will be clawed back with a change to the B.C. bus pass program, which will see rates increase to $52 each month from $45 per year.
Christy Clark’s budget rewards the wealthiest British Columbians at the expense of hard-working families. Budget 2016 maintains a billion-dollar tax cut for the top two per cent of income earners in the province, and creates a fantasy fund with unfair MSP tax hikes.
Over four years, British Columbians will be footing the bill for $1 billion in tax revenue that used to be paid by the wealthiest in the province.
And while the premier is eager to give a break to her wealthy friends, she is doing almost nothing to help regular British Columbians at a time when so many are struggling to pay the bills and keep the heat on.
In fact, her budget does the reverse: it makes life in this province harder.
Though Premier Clark promised to address this province’s most unfair tax, MSP, in this budget, she simply shifted the tax burden from one group of British Columbians to another. While adults with children will pay less, couples without children will pay more. As a whole, British Columbians will pay more after these changes than before them.
Those few families who will see relief from this announcement will have to wait a full year for the changes to take effect. And in the meantime, everyone will pay more, with a four-per-cent increase scheduled this year and another four-per-cent increase scheduled for next January.
What’s worse, those MSP increases are going straight into Christy Clark’s new fantasy fund – a fund that was supposed to be filled with LNG riches. With this industry still failing to produce any revenue at all, the premier set the fund up anyway, with $100 million of your money.
And she set it up so she can use a quarter of it as a slush fund to finance what she calls “core government priorities” – in other words, photo ops.
It’s not just MSP. Families are paying more for hydro rates, ICBC rates, ferry fares, and just last week Christy Clark hiked camping fees in parks – again.
Not only are British Columbians paying more with this budget, they’re getting less from government too. Just look at their failure to support public schools in this province.
This premier promised to make class size and composition in B.C.’s schools her “number one priority” – then she cut supports to children with special needs, increased class sizes, and took money out of both the K-12 and post-secondary systems.
Though investing in opportunity is more critical now than ever before, Budget 2016 does nothing to improve the state of classrooms. What it shows is that the premier believes the status quo of growing classes, dwindling supports and closing schools is good enough.
This is not a budget for B.C. families. This budget continues the billion-dollar tax break for millionaires, and dings everyone else so Christy Clark can make a deposit to her slush fund to pay for her photo ops.
The budget shows that this premier just isn’t there for hard-working British Columbians. She’s there for herself and her political friends.
Leader of the New Democrats