The week in the Legislature was primarily taken up with debate about the BC Liberal budget. It is, in the main, a budget that gives to the rich through tax cuts, and takes away from everyone else through increases in fees.
The top 2 percent of income earners receive a tax break, which will cost the province $230 million. A millionaire will have $17,000 extra a year to play with. And yet most people will see no relief. Instead they are faced with ever increasing hydro bills (another 6 percent planned for this year), with never-ending ferry fare hikes (another 4 percent planned for this year), and with MSP fees that are going up again, just like they do year after year.
In my response to the budget
I questioned why
BC continues to charge MSP to pay for our healthcare. The flat tax, which costs the same whether you earn $50,000 or $150,000, brings in more than $2 billion a year to the public coffers and is one of the main sources of revenue for the government. No wonder it does not want to do what other provinces have done for years and roll it into the progressive income tax structure.
I also noted that student fees will bring in more than $1.3 billion. This is an extraordinary amount. Students are struggling to pay for an education and find they also covering the massive gaps in funding of the post-secondary sector. To add to their difficulties, BC is the only province without a grant system to assist the students.
I once again questioned the increased funding to private education. It is wrong that parents have to fundraise at public schools for textbooks or equipment while public money goes into elite, private schools. If a parent wants to opt out of public education for their children, that is their right. But they should not then expect public money to subsidize the private education at Shawnigan Lake, St Georges or Glenlyon Norfolk. Yet this budget saw a 33-percent increase in money going to these private establishments.
There was no mention in the budget of the Premier’s prosperity fund, no talk now of getting rid of the PST. The concept of a debt-free BC seems to have evaporated like a gas. But that is of course because the liquefied natural gas pipe dream on which it was all built has proven to be just that, a fantasy of the Premier and her caucus alone.
The BC Liberals described this as being a budget with a surplus. However, when you have child poverty, an overburdened education system, seniors without proper care, a crumbling infrastructure and citizens struggling to get by, you have a deficit not a surplus. A government’s first priority is to ensure the well-being and security of all the people. It is plain wrong to ignore this so the BC Liberals can brag about a so-called ‘balanced’ budget.
The BC Liberals priorities are askew. Instead of trying always to act as though running a province is like running a household, we need to be investing in our province. We need to be investing in the needs of our people. We need to be investing in the needs of our communities. We need to be investing in our infrastructure. Only then will we really have a B.C. that is truly working for the people of B.C., the communities of B.C. and the economy of B.C
Our Question Periods were wide ranging this week. I challenged the Transport Minister
about the fact that rising ferry fares have pushed ridership on BC Ferries to its lowest levels for a quarter of a century. The annual excuses they come up with for the falling numbers are risible – the government shifts blame from bad weather to very bad weather, from too few tourists to improvements in the Internet. But the real reason, exorbitant fares, are never mentioned.
We challenged the government on post-secondary institutions having to pay lobbyists to gain access to BC Liberal cabinet ministers – which led to a victory as the Minister of Advanced Education changed the rules.
We also questioned some appalling decisions about the care of children by the Ministry of Children and Family Development and raised concerns about the exceedingly long wait by some patients for colonoscopies.
With a six-month shutdown just starting at Neucel, I organised a meeting between the Minister of Forests and the union representing workers at Port Alice specialty cellulose mill to try to explore ways for the mill to be able to reopen soon. I will be following up with the Minister regularly to ensure the community’s needs are met.
I also talked about the start of the demolition of St Michael’s residential school in Alert Bay. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the event but talked to people who were there and described the importance of the act to the Legislature.
This weekend sees me back in the constituency and I return to Victoria for another Monday morning start. I can be reached wherever I am on email: Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca. My phone numbers are 250 287 5100 in Campbell River and 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy. The toll free number is 866 387 5100. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter clairetrevena.ca or check out my web page www.clairetrevena.ca