Last week was “budget week” in the Legislative Assembly — a week that is highly anticipated for many.
The provincial budget sets out the priorities of government and shows where your tax dollars will be spent.
This was also the first opportunity for new Premier David Eby to put his mark on the province and he had pledged bold action.
Sadly, there wasn’t anything bold in this latest budget document. In fact, this was really Budget 2022 — take 2.
Instead of addressing the real needs of British Columbians, it appears to be more focused on erratic handouts that won't change the lives of our residents.
This government’s plan prioritizes spending in areas that do not generate economic growth and failed to fund crucial areas such as housing, childcare, seniors, and mental health.
One of the most concerning aspects is the predicted decrease in revenue, while still increasing spending. The NDP have increased spending by 57% over the course of its time leading government, with the size of government increasing by close to 30%.
British Columbia’s population has only increased by 6%, with the economy only growing by 15%.
That means that more money is coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets and and an increase in the deficit, with less revenue being generated from industry. This type of spending behaviour is not sustainable in the long run and could lead to more significant economic problems in the future.
The provincial deficit took 104 years to get to $50 billion, but under the current government, it doubled in six years to more than $100 billion. Paying interest costs on the debt is going to be almost $3.3 billion, this year alone.
Think about what $3.3 billion dollars could deliver to British Columbians. Instead, it just goes to pay interest.
People who reach out to my office need relief. Continual taxing while spending those dollars on debt interest rather than programs is not the way to deliver that relief.
But are they spending on the areas that matter? Let’s look at childcare, an issue that is of concern to many in Kelowna.
The province isn’t spending any further provincial dollars on childcare, but rather using federal money. I agree with using the federal money, but when we are so desperate for more spaces, this budget falls short in creating more childcare capacity.
More childcare capacity helps our labour sector, our businesses, and our economy all while contributing to gender equality.
The budget also failed to address the housing crisis in the province, with a complete reversal on the promised building of 114,000 affordable housing units.
was a significant promise made by the government, and abandoning it is deeply concerning.
Housing is a basic need, and the government must take action to ensure that every British Columbian has access to safe and affordable housing.
Seniors were also completely missed in this budget, which is unacceptable given the increasing number of seniors in our province.
As I’ve addressed in earlier columns, many seniors in Kelowna live at, or below the poverty line. Many are making difficult choices, given the cost of inflation, about whether to skip a meal or turn the lights out.
Seniors in this province deserve better, and we need to ensure that they receive the care and support they need to live a dignified and fulfilling life.
The oft-promised rental rebate was also changed from a $400 direct payment to a tax credit. That relief for renters was first promised in 2017 — six years ago. Rents have risen significantly since 2017 and the $400 tax credit will be less than one month's increased rent for many during those six years.
Healthcare and mental health are other areas that were not given enough attention in this budget. There were no new metrics or initiatives for healthcare, with mental health only receiving funding for more supply of harmful drugs but nothing in the capital plan to build more capacity in treatment and recovery. That is unacceptable given the ongoing healthcare crisis in our province.
Budget 2023 was a missed opportunity.
My question for you this week is this:
What priorities would you want the government to spend money on?
I love hearing from you, and I read all of the emails that come in. You can email my office at [email protected] or call 250-712-3620.
Renee Merrifield is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.