Everyone knew the BC budget was going to be full of cuts but almost two weeks on we are still trying to find out the details of where many of those cuts will be and how big they are. And as we hear about them, the Opposition raises them in Question Period.
We started the week by questioning how the government could cut the already scant resources which are given to support those people on disability or income assistance who have health problems. These include cuts to people’s food supplements, access to dental care and medical supports; all targeting the most vulnerable. It’s bad enough that people on income assistance have malnutrition. It is worse when malnutrition alone is not enough under the BC Liberal government to qualify for extra help.
We ended the week by questioning why the BC Liberals had decided to demand thousands of dollars in rent from a Legion branch that had a rent-free premises near the Legislature for more than 75 years. We followed that by questioning why the Law Line, a free phone line available for people needing legal advice, was being cut. With the loss of legal aid across the province it seems that justice is only going to be for those who can pay for it in BC.
In my official response to the budget
this week, I argued that the BC Liberals should stop equating the government budget with a household budget. Neo-conservatives do this to justify cuts in spending and cuts in taxes; but government spending and household spending are vastly different. A government’s role is to support society and its people through essential social programmes such as education and healthcare as well as infrastructure such as roads, hydro and ferries.
People start to believe the right wing propaganda that a government has to act like a bookkeeper always worrying about the bottom line. The BC Liberals deliberately ignore the huge social cost of doing that. The barrage of neo-con propaganda has convinced many that all that is important is low taxes and the bottom line. This thinking ignores the essential reality that taxes are paid to fund public infrastructure and the social system. Spending less and less means the infrastructure and social system built over the last 60 years starts disintegrating. And that is exactly what is now happening in BC.
We have to be honest about what we can and should expect from government, and how we are going to pay for it. A government has a responsibility for the commons – our lands, waters, our health and education – and this social fabric can be funded through progressive taxation, through corporate taxation, through royalties and fees. I also said that we have to look at a government’s budget through the lense of sustainability and resilience: the environmental, social and economic consequences all have to be weighed in decision-making.
However, this Liberal government sees regressive taxes, such as MSP and the HST as the solution while it cuts corporate tax and gives $1 billion to the oil and gas sector. It dismisses the needs of rural communities by effectively dismantling the Rural Secretariat, cutting it from $36 million to $3.3 million. This agency was established to help our small communities but the level of the cut shows the true reality of the BC Liberal commitment to our rural core.
On a brighter note, I was able to tell the Legislature about the Campbell River Community Literacy Association’s annual Scrabble fundraiser
during the time we have for members’ statements.
The Legislature isn’t sitting next week, because of the Paralympics. I will be attending the Rural Communities Summit in Port Hardy during the week and will be interested to hear the ideas coming from our communities about how we can work together so our communities can evolve and survive.
I will have a number of meetings around the North Island through the week and on the side of the Summit and then return to Campbell River to attend a conference on the International Day to Eliminate Racism as well as participate in the annual Words on the Water festival.
I can always be contacted through the office in Campbell River at 250 287 5100 or Port Hardy at 250 902 0325, toll free at 1 866 387 5100 or by email at: claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca.