The provincial budget delivered by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon continues the attack on public services started by Gordon Campbell in 2001.
Budget 2012 promises three more years of cuts, continuing the dismantling of critical public services and the failure to invest in the well-being of British Columbians.
The budget also shows the Clark government intends to eliminate another 2,000 public service jobs over the next three years, despite the fact that BC already has the leanest public service of any government in Canada.
Clearly, this budget challenges our ability to achieve fair and reasonable wage settlements in all sectors. Budget 2012 caps increases in public spending to 2 per cent each year, a rate that fails to even keep up with inflation.
The government forecasts a $970 million deficit this year, followed by small surpluses in each of the following two years. The Clark Liberals plan to raise additional revenue by selling off revenue-producing public assets including the Liquor Distribution Branch, increasing MSP rates by another 4 per cent (on top of 18 per cent increases), cancelling a planned reduction to the small business corporate income tax rate, and “possibly” increasing the general corporate tax rate by 1 per cent in 2013.
Eight of the government’s 17 ministries face either budget cuts or spending freezes over the next three years, including cuts to post-secondary and early childhood education.
Not surprisingly, planned increases to the budgets of the remaining ministries fall well below inflation, which effectively means cuts to these ministries as well. The failures and negative impacts of the budget will be felt in various sectors in which BCGEU
In short, this is not a budget that is concerned with providing quality public services. It is not even a budget that is focused on ‘prudent’ fiscal management – as the provincial debt is forecast to increase to more than $66 billion by 2014.
This budget is about one thing – cynical political posturing, to try to appeal to a shrinking conservative base. British Columbians deserve a budget that values the public services that improve people’s lives and help our economy to grow. Unfortunately, this budget will have the opposite effect, by shrinking the economy and ensuring a continuing crisis in the public service sector. British Columbians deserve better.