|The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Volume Ten, Number Two March 2005 www.columbiajournal.ca
Platitudes add to social deficit
"Golden decade budget" belies reality of broken Liberal promises, immense social deficit Campbell government does little to ease burden of working families who are paying hundreds of millions in added fees, premiums The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) says the budget brought down by the Campbell government paints a far too rosy picture that glosses over a legacy of escalating user fees, broken promises and deep cuts made in previous years that have saddled British Columbia with an immense social deficit.
"Despite the great platitudes and lofty goals outlined today, working families are still paying for the reckless fiscal policies and broken promises of the Campbell government," says BCGEU president George Heyman. For example, the government promised Medical Services Plan premium relief for low income earners. "But," says Heyman, "when you crunch the numbers, British Columbians are still forking over $360 million a year more after the Campbell government boosted premiums by 50 per cent in 2003, because their deep tax cuts ripped such a big hole in the provincial budget."
Heyman says it's laughable for the Campbell government to make a budget claim that they're building the best system of support in Canada for the disabled, people with special needs, children and families at risk, and seniors. "You can't build those supports when you've wielded a sledgehammer to vital programs and services the way the Liberals have," says Heyman.
Since the Campbell government was elected in 2001, he says funding for the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services and Families is down by 23 per cent in real terms. Budget allocations for the Ministry of Human Resources were reduced by 35 per cent in this time frame, and are seven per cent lower for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. "That adds up to a $1 billion cut in programs and services real terms, which creates an immense social deficit for future governments to solve," Heyman says. "And when it comes to caring for our seniors," says Heyman, "it's shocking that this budget doesn't contain concrete solutions to build long-term care beds or expand home support services to address the crisis in senior's health care."
In program areas like the environment, Heyman says that the Liberal's budget speech borders on the ridiculous. "The government has a lot of gall to claim that it will make B.C. a world leader in environmental stewardship. Their record tells a different story: the Campbell Liberals have cut spending on the environment by 35 per cent in real terms since 2001," he says.