REALITY CHECK: B.C. Liberal record on rural B.C.: economic devastation, broken promises, reduced services

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As the home to the province’s resources, rural B.C. is the engine that drives British Columbia’s economy. Instead of recognizing the importance of rural B.C., the B.C. Liberals have abandoned the province’s regions, cutting services, breaking promises and instituting policies which have devastated its economy.

The HST – Despite committing to not introduce a harmonized sales tax, the B.C. Liberals introduced the tax shortly after the 2009 election. The tax affects many goods and services vital to rural residents and it has resulted in a loss of sales to small businesses in border communities and consumers are given a greater incentive to shop outside of British Columbia.

Broken Promises – Prior to the 2001 election, the B.C. Liberals promised they would not sell B.C. Rail. Ousted MLA Paul Nettleton revealed that plans were in place as early as 2002 to break that promise. Other promises were only partly implemented, such as the promise to twin Highway 97 between Prince George and Cache Creek. The B.C. Liberals continue to promise that twinning, although the work is sporadic at best.

Cuts to health care – Health care in rural B.C. was significantly degraded under the B.C. Liberals, with closed hospitals in Kimberley, Lytton, Enderby and Fernie, while reducing services in more than a dozen other centres. They also reduced ambulance service in rural stations. The failed B.C. Liberal promise to add 5,000 new long-term care beds had a profound impact on rural B.C., with loved ones being forced to split up and seniors forced to moved from their homes.

Cuts to education – Under the B.C. Liberals, more than 100 community schools were closed, with many of those closures taking place in rural B.C. Because of a flawed education funding model under the B.C. Liberals, children were required to leave the only school they’d ever known; some are expected to ride buses for hours a day to attend a school in another community.

Cuts to other services – The B.C. Liberals closed 24 courthouses, greatly restricting the ability of rural residents to get timely access to justice. This was exacerbated by cuts to legal aid and the failure of the B.C. Liberals to fill judging vacancies in rural regions. The B.C. Liberals have also closed and reduced hours at government offices.

Economic devastation and neglect – Changes by the B.C. Liberals to the Forest Act resulted in the concentration of ownership in the forest industry, reducing competition in many regions and ultimately killing tens of thousands of well-paying, family-supporting jobs. Their policies have meant that job-intensive value-added manufacturers have been unable to access fibre, leaving many smaller secondary manufacturers to reduce operations or close shop altogether. On the coast, formerly vibrant forestry companies have been converted into real estate developers, aided by a government that has given away formerly public lands that are now forever out of the working forest. In the Interior, the B.C. Liberals have taken no action on mitigating the pine beetle devastation and their inability to act quickly cost the province $1 billion in promised federal transition funds.