By Norm Macdonald, MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke
The BC Legislature will reconvene at the beginning of February and sit through until the end of May. The central part of the Spring Session each year is the introduction and passage of the Provincial budget for the fiscal year that runs from April 2015 until the end of March 2016.
The budget will include government spending of more than $44 billion on programs and billions more on infrastructure projects. Government will also expend a lot of time and money talking about the budget, but the actual facts will be found in the fine print of Ministry of Finance documents.
The BC Liberals will again claim to have a balanced budget, but that includes the sale of a significant number of Provincial government properties. The Auditor General has stated that using asset sales to balance the budget is not sustainable; we all know that eventually you run out of things to sell.
There is also an ongoing use of BC Hydro deferral accounts, a shell game where BC Hydro borrows money and reports it as profit which the government then takes into general revenue. BC Hydro has put $5.4 billion into those deferral accounts, a significant amount that distorts the books.
Despite having Debt Free BC on the side of the BC Liberal campaign bus in the last election, provincial debt is growing faster under Premier Christy Clark than under any other Premier in BC’s history. It took 140 years for British Columbia to accrue a $30 billion debt, but since the BC Liberals have taken over that debt has grown to $165 billion, including contractual obligations. And that debt is expected to grow under this upcoming budget.
We can also expect BC Hydro rates to continue to increase. Medical services plan premiums will go up. And ICBC rates are rising. But even with these escalating costs for British Columbians, we will see even further reductions in key health and education services.
But not everyone is losing out under the BC Liberals. Premier Clark will continue to cut taxes for the richest 2% with a giveaway of $235 million. Imagine what that money could do if it was used to provide British Columbians with the services they need.
For example, I will be looking to see if there is any significant funding for the four laning and dividing of the Trans Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border.