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Greens and BC Liberals Agree Budget Is ‘Disappointing’

Opposition parties point to lack of action on toxic drugs, climate and affordability.

Andrew MacLeod 23 Feb 2022TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All To-gether Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at .

While BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon found a couple of nice things to say about the province’s budget released Tuesday, he was generally dismissive.

“Frankly this is possibly one of the most disappointing budgets I’ve had to look at,” said Falcon, a former finance minister who won the BC Liberal Party leadership earlier this month.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson presented a budget that includes $71 billion in operational spending that she said would help build a more inclusive, sustainable and innovative province.

It drew mixed reaction from Falcon and other observers.

A budget should really be a strategic plan that demonstrates the government understands people’s concerns and has a plan to address them, Falcon said. “I see none of that reflected in this budget.”

Affordability is a larger worry in B.C. than ever, with prices for gas, housing and groceries all rising, he added.

“All of those additional cost increases, and yet the budget doesn’t say anything that’s going to improve everyday affordability for British Columbians, and I think it’s disappointing from that point of view.”

Falcon said he supports $10-a-day child care, but that the government is moving in that direction too slowly.

With support from the federal government, the budget included spending to add 40,000 child-care spaces over the next seven years, with families paying an average of $20 per day per child for care by the end of 2022.

And while adding $8 million to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions could make sense, Falcon said, “all of that is communications or advertising money, and I think that’s a real slap in the face to families that have lost loved ones.

“We don’t need to be told how they’re doing such a great job when the numbers are telling us exactly the opposite.”

Falcon also said he supported the extension of supports for youth aging out of government care to the age of 27, instead of having them cut off at 19. And he was positive about the plan to provide eligible forestry workers support to retire when they are older than 55.

“Helping them bridge to retirement is nice, but frankly a lot of these folks want to keep working and have a job, and lack of consultation I think is a real disservice,” he said.

“What I’m really concerned about is the fact their forestry policies have been driven without any meaningful consultation with First Nations and local communities and with the folks that are affected in the forestry industry.”

In a prepared statement, BC Green Party Leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau said that how a government spends money shows what its priorities really are.

“We heard this NDP government use the right words on climate and inequality, but once again they failed to deliver on the outcomes,” she said. “In a time like this, people need a vision that meets their needs while giving them hope for the future. This budget didn’t deliver.”

The Greens applauded the creation of a secretariat to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, spending on climate emergency management and recovery, and the investment in a new ministry for land, water and resource stewardship.

They said the government failed to expand safe drug supply and other harm reduction measures, fund family doctors to provide lifelong, consistent care, or recognize the importance of preventive health. Nor did it fully address housing, building an inclusive economy or climate resilience.

Other responses included:

Wilderness Committee: “Budget 2022 attempts to catch up with the province’s growing ecological deficit. While investments in transportation and forestry transition are welcome, the provincial government isn’t doing enough to back up old-growth protection and continues to support B.C.’s biggest polluters.”

National campaign director Torrance Coste said in an interview that it will be key to see exactly where the government spends the money and that it’s unlikely to be sufficient. “There’s not a ton of concrete details around how exactly that spending will be utilized, and obviously the investments we were happy to see, they fall in the shadow of the magnitude of the climate and biodiversity crisis.”

While money to mitigate the damage from climate change is welcome, the government also needs to better address the root cause, Coste said. “We are still spending almost twice as much on reacting to climate change as we are on stopping it and that equation needs to be balanced or flipped.”

Ancient Forest Alliance: “The B.C. government appears to have improved upon funding commitments for old-growth forests in Budget 2022, but still has fallen short of providing the amount necessary to fully protect endangered ancient forests in B.C.”

Mining Association of BC: “The lack of urgent action in Budget 2022 to address longstanding inequities within the application of British Columbia’s carbon tax for trade-exposed industries puts B.C. jobs at risk and may encourage global mining investment to migrate to jurisdictions with higher GHG emission profiles.”

BC Federation of Labour: “Today’s provincial budget shows the government recognizes the central role of working people in rebuilding our economy as we emerge from a time of crisis and uncertainty.”

BC Nurses’ Union: “While the BC Nurses’ Union is pleased to see the government provide $3.2 billion in health-care spending over the next three years, president Aman Grewal is cautiously optimistic that this commitment will ensure immediate relief for nurses struggling to provide patient care in a health-care system that’s in the throes of a staffing shortage.”

Union of BC Municipalities: “Budget 2022 includes significant new funding commitments of interest to local governments including emergency preparedness and disaster recovery, climate action and homelessness.”

Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith: “B.C.’s Budget 2022 addresses these twin challenges [climate crisis and rising unaffordability] by financially helping British Columbians acquire cleaner cars — both new and used, less wasteful heating systems and more energy efficient homes. We’re also pleased to see additional dollars going toward growing clean industries in B.C.”

Metro Vancouver: “Metro Vancouver commends the B.C. government for its 2022 budget, which emphasizes resilience and climate action while creating substantial opportunities for economic recovery and prosperity in the wake of hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters.”

Business Council of BC: “While [the council] welcomes the B.C. government’s plans to improve social supports, boost capital spending and advance reconciliation, we are increasingly concerned at the lack of action to attract investment and grow the province’s most productive industries while at the same time adding costs and expanding the size of the public sector.”

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, B.C. office: “In almost all directions they’re moving in the right direction, but far too slowly in order to make much of a difference to the really pressing challenges that we face as a society,” said senior economist Marc Lee. “If you look at housing, climate, poverty, not tons there.”

While the spending is welcome on child care, largely coming from federal money, there’s much more that the B.C. government could do, Lee said, noting that the budget includes billions for contingencies that instead of being spent will likely contribute to future surpluses. “It’s disappointing because the government has way more fiscal capacity to do things that need to be done, that people want them to do, that they have a mandate to do, and they’re sort of handcuffing themselves in this way that I just don’t get.”  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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