As promised, Finance Minister Mike de Jong has tabled his second balanced budget in a row. In fact, de Jong says the next three years will see surpluses of $184, $206 and $451-million.
The bulk of what new spending there is will go to health care – 2.5 billion dollars. But de Jong says part of that will continue to come from increasing MSP premiums. They’ll go up four percent on January 1st.
There’s also more money for Community Living BC ($243-million more over three years), $15-milllion over three years to help children and youth with special needs, $15-million more over three years for RCMP costs and $6-million more for legal aid.
De Jong sums it up like this, “It may not be glitzy or chock full of goodies, but it is the right plan for British Columbia”.
NDP Finance Critic Mike Farnworth has a slightly different way of summing it up. “This year’s budget has two major components: families pay more and families will get less, as this budget ignores the issues facing average British Columbians and the families that make up this province,” he said in his response in the Legislature.
Liberal MLA Michelle Stilwell of Parksville – Qualicum says the good news in the budget is the province’s success in increasing foreign trade and investment, including in the LNG sector. She says that’s going to pay long term dividends.
Powell River Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons, the NDP Agriculture Critic, says the budget misses the mark for families, making life more expensive through things like MSP premium increases, while offering little in return.
Simons says however, he’s willing to give a little “credit where credit is due” for the extra spending for Community Living BC and children and youth with special needs
Simons says the money comes in areas where funding has been lacking for a decade.
de Jong is also following the lead of the federal government in raising tobacco taxes. It’s a move welcomed by the province’s Medical Health Officers.
Dr. Paul Martiquet is the MHO for the Sunshine Coast.
Taxes on cigarettes will go up 32 cents per pack, or $3.20 per carton on April 1. Combined with the recent federal tax that’s an extra $7.20.
Martiquet also says he’s glad to see the government commit to spending some of that money on funding cancer research and prevention.
Major public service unions, the BC Teachers Federation, the BC Government and Service Employees Union and the BC Nurses Union have already come out swinging. Saying the budget does nothing to support improved services in their sectors.