The BC Federation of Labour believes the budget update presented by the province will do wonders for working people.
“In particular, the commitment to a poverty reduction plan, I think it’s important when you talk about a poverty reduction plan they’re generally three aspects raising welfare rates which was done, spending some money on affordable housing and raising the minimum wage which will happen,” says Irene Lanzinger, BCFED president.
While a $681 million investment in education and a 50% cut in Medical Service Premiums were announced, the $10-a-day child care plan was omitted from Monday’s update.
However, Lanzinger says even though that was disappointing – she isn’t too worried about the omission. “Childcare is a huge piece of the affordability cost – it has a particular impact on women returning to the job market. We accept the fact that this government didn’t form for two months and we do expect some significant movement on that in February.”
Also highlighted in the budget was a higher earner income tax increase. “I was very pleased to see in this budget the taxing of people with incomes over $150,000. The fact is we need a fair taxation system to pay for public services,” says Lanzinger.
For some, however, the funding announcement isn’t all sunshine and lollipops as Finance critic Shirley Bond criticized the NDP’s approach, saying the new budget is banking on the assumption that the economic outcome of 2016 will be repeated, which included a $2.7 billion surplus.
However, Lanzinger doesn’t buy that argument. “I think the NDP is looking at what the Surplus is and they’re under forecasting the growth over the next few years compared to economic indicators so they’re being just a bit cautious on that and I think that February will be more of a test of that because it’s a full budget when this is a middle budget.”
Bond also made the argument that the recent investments to health care and education will come at a serious cost, stating the budget will see an increase in taxation of a billion dollars over the next three years with no economic growth or jobs plan in the works.
Again, Lanzinger disagrees with that assessment. “Jobs in the public sector are the most efficient jobs that you can produce and in education and health care, they’re providing vital services. Let’s take the education example, 3,000 teachers were cut as a result of the Liberal government’s refusing to honor collective agreements or to make an agreement with teachers when they were found to be in violation of the law. Those teachers being hired are completely a result of the Liberal mismanagement in education. I’m a former teacher so I can speak to that.”
The government also announced a $5 per tonne increase to the province’s carbon tax, which it predicts will generate $1.2 billion in revenue this year.
The province plans to use the majority of their $246 million surplus to service the debt, which it says will be eliminated by 2020.