The BC Liberals released their 2014 budget last week, leaving Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald “disappointed.”
“This is a budget that fundamentally fails British Columbians as costs for hydro, medical service plan premiums, and car insurance continue to go up,” said Macdonald. “Nothing is being done to address real issues like child poverty, unemployment and skills training.”
NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth estimates the fees to increase by $900 a year (between hydro rates, MSP premiums and car insurance) for thousands of B.C. families.
MSP premiums increase by up to $5.50 a month for families earning more than $30,000 a year, effective with the start of a new fiscal year on April 1. That is the sixth consecutive increase for MSP fees, resulting in an increase of 30 per cent.
Also on April 1, a nine per cent increase in BC Hydro rates take effect, adding $8 a month to the average residential electricity bill.
The BC Teachers’ Federation was equally disappointed with the announcement. The federation’s vice president, Glen Hansman describes the budget as “a lot of promises about trades, transforming education, and supporting teachers and students, but there is nothing to back up those promises.”
Provincial funding for K-12 education will continue at 2013 levels, as the government pursues an appeal of a court decision that could add significantly to the school district costs.
The budget will be balanced for the surplus for the second straight year, but Macdonald still sees the debt rising.
“What is truly disturbing about this government’s record on financial matters is that we have skyrocketing debt and very little to show for it. Health and education services are being cut due to a lack of funding,” he said.
“And now, due to more than a decade of government interference, Crown Corporations that have traditionally operated with significant surpluses are struggling to say afloat. This budget is a classic example of mismanagement of the province’s resources: taxpayers get less while paying much, much more.”
The government expects to end the current year with an operating surplus of $175 million, rising to $184 million next year, which Finance Minister Mike de Jong said is mainly a result of spending discipline. B.C. and Saskatchewan are the only provinces to balance budgets this year, and the three western provinces remain the only ones with a triple-A credit rating.
Taxpayer-supported debt rises to more than $43 billion in the coming fiscal year, climbing to $45.5 billion by 2016-17. About $11 billion of next year’s burden is operating debt left by a string of deficits in recent years.
Total provincial debt, including self-supported debt held by BC Hydro and other agencies, grows from $64.7 billion this year to $68.9 billion three years from now.
Although fees are increasing, there were few changes made to the taxation model. The biggest tax increase being the one placed on tobacco, which will increase by 32 cents a pack in April, on top of the latest federal increase of 40 cents a pack.
With files from Black Press