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The Columbia Journal
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Vancouver, British Columbia,
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    Budget Baloney
    Marco Procaccini

    It’s easy to perform miracles when you have an overly supportive corporate media monopoly helping make you look your best—or at least seemingly that way.

    So BC’s scandal-plagued, mandate-deficient Liberal regime has produced its first “balanced” budget. With great media fan fare and almost ceremonial pomp, Finance Minister Gary Collins boasted this new $30.2 billion monster budget, supposedly guaranteed to produce a tiny $100 million surplus, calling it a “turning point” for BC.

    That maybe so, but the question is what direction are we turning to at this point. Not a good one if this budget is any indication. But even more concerning is how this budget was formed and the track record of those who drew it up.

    Of course the budget is “balanced” on paper. Anyone who has had basic accounting skills or developed a business forecast knows it is not a great feat to balance the books. It all depends on what figures or assumptions about the upcoming term are used.

    If this budget forecast wasn’t hyped enough, Collins also predicted a $275 million surplus for 2005-06 and $300 million in 2006-07 based on projected GDP growth rates of 2.8 per cent this year and 3.1 per cent for the following two years.

    Numerous economic monitors, including the Trade Union Research Bureau and, especially, Statistics Canada don’t see such a rosy picture for BC in the same time frame. The BC Central Credit Union sees the brightest future of 2.8 per cent average growth rate over the next five years—well below Collins’ starry-eyed forecast.

    What’s telling is that BC Central says its forecast is not much better than the average growth rate of the last five years. The Liberals were in power for the last two of those years and ran up the biggest deficits in this province’s history.

    Not surprising. Under their tenure, Statscan reports this province has sunk to the bottom of the pack in overall economic growth and job creation. Some of its reports claim BC’s economy overall is running flat—as in zero; nil; zip. That Collins thinks it will just shoot up to 2.8 per cent in just a matter of months to say the least overly hopeful.

    But Collins insists his budget ballad is a real feat, considering, “we started off with a $4.4 billion deficit,” he told the press. And of course the headlines and top news stories of all the outlets controlled by Global-Canwest, which is practically married to the Liberals, both provincially and federally, applauded.

    What no one mentioned is that the Liberals created that whopping deficit themselves in their first year of office, thanks to what many economists and critics say is their huge tax giveaway, that went mostly to their wealthy corporate backers, and the resulting economic slowdown.

    “We inherited a province that was in pretty bad shape; we were in last place in Canada,” he said at a press conference. And of course the corporate media rubber stamped it.

    Bad shape? These corporate-backed clowns inherited not one, not two, but three balanced budgets from the previous NDP government—two of them in the $1 billion-plus range, record-setters in themselves, and turned them into the biggest losses in BC’s history.

    Last place? In what way? According to Statistics Canada, BC enjoyed the best overall job creation rate, among the best consumer-price indexes and the among the best funded health care, education and social services during the NDP’s tenure.

    We certainly don’t hold this stature today. Rural communities who weathered tough times with the NDP government have been literally devastated with the Liberals.

    This budget does little for them, especially when compared to the Liberals’ gutting of job-protection requirements for forest harvesting—a cave-in to the US—and the closure of scores of public services and facilities in these communities in the last two years.

    But this isn’t all. “The era of cutbacks and layoffs is past with this budget,” Premier Gordon Campbell enthusiastically told the media.

    Really? This budget again hammers the Ministry of Children and Family Services by another $70 million.

    While complaining about the huge costs due to last summer’s fires, Collins has cut funding to forest fire prevention by $2 million and the emergency response program by $3 million.

    The Liberals made fighting crime a big part of their election platform. So, this budget accordingly cuts over $25 million to police services and jails. Building safety took a $9 million hit.

    Quite conveniently, the Liberals have also cut $700,000 for aquaculture management while they continue to push for expanded salmon farming.

    All of these cuts, any many more, will compound the huge problems for the public service already created by the Liberals through drastic funding cuts and fights with the workers and professionals who deliver these services.

    Collins also says he’s embarrassed that BC is considered a “have not” province because it is now getting over $200 million in equalization payments from Ottawa.

    Interesting. Between 1995 and 2000, during the NDP tenure, Ottawa cut over $3 billion a year in transfer payments to BC because it wasn’t considered a have-not province. What’s happened in the past two years to make us one? This government’s policies answer that question quite effectively.





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