An ArmchairMayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE NEW B.C. BUDGET unveiled today has quite a bit of good stuff in it, and some disappointment. There’s also (at least) one thing about the Liberals’ numbers that needs straightening out.
Business is happy with this budget. The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce is pleased with it, which is in keeping with the fact it’s kind to business. Environmentalists, on the other hand, aren’t impressed with the government’s record on mega-projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline and Site C.
And the rest of us might be asking, “where’s the payback?”
After all the hype in the Throne Speech, and the flurry of check writing since then, expectations where high that the middle class was really going to feel the love in this budget. While the budget contains some good moves, we might not notice extra dollars in our wallets unless we look carefully.
Cutting MSP premiums by half, with the eventual aim of eliminating them altogether, is certainly positive. The NDP is hinting it plans to kill them altogether, right away, but hasn’t yet explained how it will generate the $1 billion necessary to replace the revenue from them.
The reduction in the cost of student loans is welcome – students are amassing huge debt and have faced threats of retribution if they don’t keep up their payments after leaving school. The high cost of post-secondary education continues to be an unmet challenge.
Now here’s one thing that needs clarifying. The government takes credit for increasing investment in transportation, schools and hospitals. The new RIH patient care tower, the business plan for which was announced as officially approved just a couple of weeks ago, gets frequent mention as a $417-million investment by the government in health care.
The project is, certainly, expensive, needed and welcome, but a great deal of the cost is being met not by the provincial government but by local taxpayers. Interior Health and the province are footing $225 million, but $20 million is coming from the RIH Foundation and $172 million through the Thompson Regional Hospital District.
The latter amount means an average $20 cost per average household in the TRHD, so while healthcare is regarded as a universal entitlement, when it comes to capital expenditures, a big piece comes from the local level without help from the rest of the province.
When it comes to spending, it’s important to be clear on where the money is coming from.