Paying for government services we're not getting

B.C. government surplus

Growing up, my grandfather taught me the value of a dollar.

He used to tell me, “Pay up as you go up, so that when you get up, you are up.”

He always wanted value for what he spent and was careful with those dollars. As an uneducated rancher and farmer, he and my grandmother were millionaires when they passed. How? Because they were wise with their money.

This last month has produced some surprising financial results for B.C. The finance minister announced B.C. posted a surplus of $1.3 billion for the fiscal period of 2021-2022, and it is forecasting a surplus of $706 million this year.

Sounds like great news, right? Until you look at the details.

Last year’s surplus could have come from the additional taxes paid by corporations for their employees, called the Employers’ Health Tax, or from the soaring housing market in Provincial Property Transfer Tax, which posted a surplus of $1.3 billion on one line item.

The government showed the surplus was from higher taxes, including carbon taxes, higher fuel taxes, higher corporate taxes and higher personal taxes.

Simply put, the government’s higher revenue was from you and the other taxpayers of B.C.

So how is the government spending money? Let’s have a look.

Right now, healthcare has never been worse. More than 20% of British Columbians don’t have a primary family doctor and can’t get access to healthcare. Our hospitals are overloaded, and B.C. was one of the few jurisdictions that didn’t add any ICU capacity with the federal dollars that were given to us during COVID for the purpose of capacity expansion.

Any additional spending in healthcare? No. Are our tax dollars going towards improving the ambulance service? No. People are dying as they wait for an ambulance to arrive.

How about mental health supports? No.

I have heard from parents who can’t find support for their kids, adults who don’t know how to get help for the issues in their lives, and those who are on the verge of crisis and are not able to get help or support.

Where are those (promised) complex care beds? So far, they have been promised twice, but with no location, physical structure or dollars allocated. It sounds like help is still a long way off for the hundreds on our streets and in subsidized housing.

How about a new Rutland Middle School or a new high school in Glenmore? Nope.

But there was enough money for a new hidden bonus for BCGEU employees. The new agreement will cost B.C. taxpayers $2.6 billion. This is in addition to the additional 140,000 government employees who cost B.C. taxpayers more than $11 billion per year.

That is a staggering dollar figure.

Meanwhile, the government still has people waiting for their $110 ICBC rebate, promised to them in March, as well as a promised rental rebate for the last two elections.

The government may pat itself on the back for the economic rebound post-COVID, but the Stats Canada jobs report tells a much different story. Private sector jobs are tanking while government jobs are growing.

British Columbians are paying more taxes than ever before, not getting the services they need, and instead, are getting a huge government staff with massive salaries but no measurable outcomes.

Big government and a small private sector is a horrific combination. It will mean a decrease in B.C.’s GDP because government jobs don’t produce anything yet cost taxpayers a lot of money.

Taxpayers deserve better. British Columbians deserve more.

If B.C. is going to post a surplus, it should be because the economy is growing in the private sector and not because taxpayers are paying more, especially if they are getting less for those dollars.

My question this week is:

Do you feel that you are getting value from the tax dollars that you are paying?

I love hearing from you!. Please email me at [email protected] or call me at 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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