Kelowna MLA says government's latest budget fails to address local needs

Where's the money?

In the wake of the NDP government’s latest budget announcement, it's clear the needs of Kelowna and its residents have once again been sidelined.

As the MLA for Kelowna-Mission, I'm deeply concerned about the lack of attention and investment in our community's most pressing issues.

The budget, which marks the government’s eighth consecutive year in power, continues a troubling pattern of neglect towards the vital needs of our city and its rapidly growing population.

One of the most glaring omissions in the 2024 budget is the absence of any significant transportation projects for Kelowna, including any from the approved transportation plan created and announced more than a year ago. Those projects are crucial for alleviating traffic congestion and fostering economic growth in the region, but they remain overlooked and without funding.

The budget also fails to deliver new funding for the expansion of treatment and recovery services, despite the increasing average wait times for mental health beds. Our community is in dire need of enhanced support and resources to combat mental health challenges.

The government has pledged to prioritize mental health, repeatedly but the landscape today is a patchwork of underfunded programs and half-hearted initiatives, with no new money for additional programs. Instead, the budget just promises a life relegated to addiction with trauma and mental illness put on display for everyone to see.

Would we treat our dementia patients this way? Would we put them out onto the street and say, “best of luck to you?”

Equally concerning is the continued neglect of our justice system, with no measures to address the so-called "catch-and-release" policies or the government’s ineffective decriminalization experiment. That oversight undermines our community's safety and well-being.

Additionally, the budget's provision for small businesses is woefully inadequate, with a mere $70,000 of the $10.5 million Securing Small Business Rebate Program actually reaching businesses. That is a result of bureaucratic red tape and does not bode well for the economic health of our community.

Another critical gap in the budget is the omission of any funding for a new Rutland Middle School, built to the same standard as other recently constructed middle schools in the district. This is a project that (B.C. United Leader) Kevin Falcon and his party has wholeheartedly committed to, if he is elected premier in the fall election.

With the government’s projected 2024 deficit, taxpayers will now spend $4.1 billion on interest costs this year – almost half of the entire Ministry of Education’s budget. Let that sink in.

The people of Kelowna deserve better. They deserve a government that listens to their needs, invests in their future and delivers tangible results.

BC United is committed to making the necessary changes to ensure our community thrives. We believe in investing in infrastructure, supporting small businesses, mental health treatment and recovery, education, enhancing public safety, and providing the essential services that our residents rely on.

It's time for a shift towards a government that not only promises but also delivers results. Together, we can build a brighter future for Kelowna and all British Columbia.

My question to you is this:

What were you hoping for in this budget?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United 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.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education 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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