(Vancouver) A stronger economy in 1999 will mean a much smaller deficit for 1999/00, creating room in the 2000 Budget for progressive policy choices, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said today in a briefing with Finance Minster Paul Ramsey.
"We are recommending a bold commitment to an anti-poverty strategy," said CCPA-BC Director Seth Klein. "Such a strategy should increase the minimum wage and reform BC Benefits by increasing welfare rates and ending the clawback of the Child Tax Benefit for families on social assistance." The CCPA strategy also recommends building and supporting new social housing, and targeting funds towards Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
An anti-poverty strategy is essential in the face of rising poverty rates. In 1997, the percentage of British Columbians considered to be low income grew to 18.2% from 16.5% in 1992. Economic conditions and government cutbacks have also made life more difficult for those living at the bottom of the income ladder.
The CCPA also called for protection and expansion of the public sector through first-year funding of a multi-year plan to bring child care into the public sector, while countering trends towards privatization and contracting out, particularly in regard to health care and education.
The CCPA argued against tax cuts for upper income earners, instead calling for a number of revenue-neutral measures to increase the progressivity of the tax system.
"Tax cuts for upper income earners would be a moral outrage given the situation facing the province's poorest citizens," said CCPA Research Economist Marc Lee.
On the fiscal side, the CCPA recommended that the government cap the increase in provincial debt-to-GDP at 23.9%. With stronger economic growth expected in 2000 and 2001, the province clearly has room to increase spending in key areas of social support that have been eroded in the 1990s.