MLA Vicki Huntington responds to Budget 2017
Independent MLA Vicki Huntington said that while the B.C. government’s budget includes a number of positive initiatives, it is little more than posturing for the upcoming election.
“At the end of the day, this is an election budget,” said Huntington. “Until the government moves our elections to the fall, election-year budgets will always be unscrutinized, vote-buying exercises. These are election platform documents for the governing party, paid for by the taxpayer. MLAs will return in a few months for a new budget, to do it all over again.”
Huntington has advocated for moving the fixed election date to the fall, beginning with the 2021 election, to allow election-year budgets to be reviewed, voted on, and tested.
“I have long supported the principle of balanced budgets, but our total debt will rise by $11 billion over the next three years to $77 billion. And this government continues to balance its books by underfunding vital services and social supports,” said Huntington. “Now, in an election year, we see the same pattern. There will be no increase to the current poverty-level income assistance rates. The $50 monthly increase for persons with disabilities is welcome, but it doesn’t even return what the government took away last year with its bus pass clawback.”
“If the government wants to get serious, they should be looking at either a greater increase in social supports, or better yet, a Guaranteed Minimum Income, which may be the only way we are going to solve our social needs.”
“The proposed 50 per cent reduction of MSP premiums for lower- and middle-income earners is remarkable,” said Huntington. “I just hope it’s sustainable.” She added that government revenue from fees and licenses is expected to go up by two per cent per year. The budget also does not provide for a part-time or mobile South Delta social service office, which Huntington said is a much-needed service.
“There were definitely some positives,” said Huntington. “I was pleased to see more funding for education, for instance, but it shouldn’t have taken a long and protracted legal battle for our schools to receive some of the money that has been owed to them for 15 years.”
The budget also commits to $45 million in new funding to eliminate school bus fees. Huntington said it is disappointing that no money was made available to restore school bus services in Delta.
Huntington also said the ministry of agriculture’s budget was a mixed bag. “We have $6 million more going to the Buy Local program, which is a positive step, but the ministry and the ALC need more funding. The ministry says the preservation of farmland is their top priority, but behind the scenes we know they’ve been trying to undermine the ALC.”
Huntington added, “The government is still projecting the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge to cost $3.5 billion. To that I say, ‘We’ll see.’”