Op-ed: Budget makes life less affordable

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By Mike Farnworth, Special to the Vancouver Sun

Families in our province will be extremely disappointed with the budget brought down by Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals this week.

It’s a budget that makes life less affordable for us all and demonstrates the Liberals are more interested in slick slogans than in doing what’s right for the people of this province.

Over the three years outlined in the budget, the average British Columbia family will pay nearly $900 more due to increases in hydro rates and medical premiums. On top, British Columbians will be paying more for everything from ferries to tuition to car insurance.

That doesn’t sound like a government that is fighting for B.C. families.

A government fighting for families would bring forward a vision that includes everyone, rather than leaving so many behind. You only need to look at the fact the B.C. Liberals continue to ignore the very real problem of child poverty. Shamefully, B.C. has the highest rate of child poverty in Canada, yet our government has no plan to do anything about it.

A government fighting for families would have a plan to address inequality, but there is nothing in this budget that narrows the widening gap.

A government fighting for families would make good on its commitments. Sadly, the B.C. Liberals couldn’t even stick to promises they made just last week.

In their throne speech, the government paid lip service to improving skills training, but the budget contains more cuts to post-secondary education and a flatlined budget for skills training. Students and their parents will be forced to pay an additional $60 million this year for tuition fee increases, making it a struggle for many to afford the education they need for the jobs of tomorrow.

The throne speech also contained a promise of a violence-free B.C., but the Liberals failed to follow through with anything in the budget to pursue that empty promise.

British Columbians are becoming accustomed to empty promises from Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals.

During the election they campaigned with the slogan “debt free B.C.” on the side of their bus. But the truth is in the budget documents: over the next three years provincial debt will shoot up another $7 billion to an unthinkable $69 billion by 2016.

The Liberals say they have a plan to create jobs, yet the government’s budget documents an epic failure in that regard. “Employment in B.C. stalled in 2013,” it reads. “B.C.’s labour market performed poorly last year compared to other provinces.”

We already know B.C. is last in private-sector job growth since the premier made her original promise. The 2014 budget admits the unemployment rate will continue to rise in each of the next two years.

The B.C. Liberals have put all their eggs in the LNG basket to the exclusion of nearly every other driver of our economy, from tourism to small business to forestry. But when you examine the budget for the next three years, there isn’t a dime of revenue from LNG.

Even with their singular focus on LNG, the B.C. Liberals are already missing all their targets. The LNG taxation framework promised by the end of the last calendar year is late and still incomplete. And their promise to “have at least one LNG pipeline and terminal in operation in Kitimat by 2015” won’t even come close.

The simple fact is this visionless budget built on the backs of B.C. families is the result of this government’s mismanagement and neglect.

They’ve mismanaged and neglected our forest industry, closing more than 70 mills and losing over 25,000 forestry jobs.

Their mismanagement of BC Hydro means the province is buying expensive power we don’t need at exorbitant rates, and selling at a loss. And the government is taking more than ever from BC Hydro even though the Crown corporation is billions of dollars in debt.

Forcing BC Hydro to hide debt in secret accounts so the Liberals can pretend their budget is balanced is simply irresponsible.

And we’ve seen this government bungle countless projects leading to well over $3.5 billion in cost over-runs.

This government is covering for its mismanagement by making B.C. families pay the price, nickel and diming family budgets that are already stretched thin.

So when this government asks you to put yet another notch in your belt that has been tightened year after year, remember it’s because of their mismanagement.

The B.C. Liberals put their self-serving political interests before the interests of B.C. families.

Mike Farnworth is the New Democrat Finance Critic.

This article originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun.