(Vancouver) The provincial government needs to prepare British Columbia for a world class performance in 2010, rather than ignoring pressing social and economic needs. That's the goal of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' 2004 BC Solutions Budget, released today. It uses the Olympics deadline as the focus for a six-year public investment strategy that would go beyond the minimum requirements for hosting the games, and use the Olympics as a springboard to revitalize the provincial economy.
The Solutions Budget six-year plan restores the province's fiscal capacity (tax revenues), rolls back the painful spending cuts, creates a more fair and sustainable tax system, achieves substantial public investments in the BC economy and key public services, creates a meaningful plan to stimulate private sector investment--and leaves BC with a smaller debt-to-GDP ratio than in any year since 1991/92.
"The provincial government's plan for BC has centred on tax and spending cuts, deregulation and privatization," says Marc Lee, an economist with the CCPA. "But our economy remains weak, and has not been kick-started by tax cuts. BC trailed the rest of Canada in economic growth the past few years, and the outlook for 2004 is not much brighter. There is no boom in private sector investment on the horizon, and public sector investments--with the exception of Olympics commitments that are concentrated in Vancouver/Whistler--have been cut back in the name of budget restraint."
"Trying to balance the budget in 2004/05, as planned, will actually be a drag on the economy," says Lee. He hopes the provincial government will re-think its budget choices. "British Columbia needs a long-term economic plan that diversifies the provincial economy, addresses the gap between rural BC and the Lower Mainland, and stops the upheaval from spending cuts. Otherwise, come 2010 we'll be hoping no one looks under the carpet, instead of welcoming the global spotlight."
"Imagine British or American network producers doing a major story on the host town. If the images they feature are of a Vancouver ravaged by poverty and homelessness, crippled by traffic congestion, or in the middle of an environmental controversy, any efforts to promote the city or province will be seriously blighted. That's why the Solutions Budget lays out an investment plan focused on anti-poverty and affordable housing measures, education and training, transportation and health care reform."