Premier’s failure to stand up for B.C. will cost nearly $6 billion, New Democrats say

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VICTORIA – Thursday’s federal budget could cost this province nearly $6 billion in health transfer payments alone, thanks in part to Christy Clark’s failure to stand up for B.C., say the New Democrats.

“Premier Clark gave her tacit support when the Harper government announced its intention to slash health care spending, and now we’re seeing the full impact of those cuts,” said New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston.

Thursday’s budget reflects the changes to the health transfer payment funding formula that federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unilaterally declared in December 2011. The new formula ties increases in payments to nominal increases in the GDP that results in a significant drop from the previous formula, which saw annual increases of six per cent. The change will cost B.C. roughly $5.9 billion over the 10 years of the federal-provincial agreement.

“This means reductions in services or an increased burden on B.C. taxpayers,” said Ralston. “Had the premier been spending her time governing instead of campaigning for the past two years, she could have more forcefully advocated for the needs of British Columbia.”

Ralston said the 2013 budget is another example of the federal government offloading responsibilities onto provinces without resources to fund them.

The budget also delays spending on infrastructure and cuts the federal commitment to labour market agreements.

“New Democrats have made skills training a provincial priority, and it's good to see the federal government acknowledging how important it is,” said Ralston. “But we're concerned that Ottawa appears to be clawing back resources from B.C. under the reformed job grants program.

“If the Premier was serious about jobs as a first priority, she would have put more effort into ensuring B.C. does not get shortchanged on funding for skills training.”

The B.C. Liberals aren’t up to the challenges facing British Columbians today. B.C.'s New Democrats are offering change for the better, one practical step at a time.