(Victoria) Finance Minister Mike de Jong said today the true measure of a society is its willingness to “truly make a difference” in the lives of the most vulnerable. “If you accept the Finance Minister’s measure of a society, BC is failing miserably,” says Iglika Ivanova, Senior Economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC Office. “What this budget offers to BC’s most vulnerable is a drop in the bucket. For example, $77 a month for people on disability benefits after a nine year freeze; this doesn’t even cover cost of living increases. And at the same time, there is no big-picture plan to address poverty and hunger.”
Ivanova highlights some significant areas of concern in Budget 2016, where any positive support for families and vulnerable people amounts to a drop in the bucket:
- MSP premiums for children have been eliminated, but couples without children will pay higher rates, with the end result that government revenue from MSP will actually increase.
- There is no mention of action on childcare, aside from $11 million dollars for child care centres.
- The government has announced a tax competitiveness commission, as opposed to the tax fairness commission that is sorely needed.
- The budget is silent on climate change, a remarkable omission at this point in time.
- The government promises to create 2,000 units of affordable housing over five years; this is certainly a step forward, but hardly historic, compared to much higher annual increases in the stock of affordable housing in the past.
- Property tax measures are aimed at buyers of some new homes, and there is no help for renters struggling with housing affordability.
Ivanova remarks, “The Minister notes that BC is the only province in Canada with a triple-A credit rating. We are also the only province without a poverty reduction plan, even though one in five children lives in poverty. This says at least as much, if not more, about our success as a province.”
“Our economy is growing,” she adds. “Surely we can offer British Columbians much more than a drop in the bucket.”
Contact Sarah Leavitt at sarah at policyalternatives dot ca.