Liberals can no longer deny B.C. ranked last of the provinces in disparity between least and most wealthy

VANCOUVER –A report released Friday by the B.C. government itself condemns Liberal policies that have put B.C. “dead last” in disparity between the highest and lowest income earners, say the New Democrats.

“For too long the Liberals have denied that economic inequality exists in a big way in British Columbia,” said New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston. “But this report from B.C. Stats shows that not only is B.C. at the bottom of the pile, but Liberal policies played a big part in getting us there.”

The report by the government agency said according to the latest data available, “compared to other provinces, B.C. ranked dead last in 2009, with the largest gap between the top 20 per cent and the bottom 20 per cent of income earners.”

The report said the lowest earners made “just 7.7 per cent” of what the top earners made, “well down from the levels of around 22 per cent” seen in the 1990s.

Ralston said when it comes to pointing blame, it’s obvious where the fault lies.

“The Liberals believe very strongly in the trickle-down theory of economics, but it clearly isn’t working. The big breaks the Liberals give to their big business friends haven’t trickled down to the average family in B.C.,” said Ralston. “Instead of helping families, the Liberals have hit them year after year with multiple fee increases and the HST – a massive tax shift that takes the burden off big business, and puts it squarely on the backs of individuals.”

Ralston said the Liberal government response to Friday’s report shows they are clearly out of touch with the serious issues facing B.C. families.

When questioned about the report on Tuesday, Liberal Finance Minister Kevin Falcon simply responded “I'm not being flippant, but in Cuba they don't have any income inequality because they're all poor.”

“I have no idea what the Liberals are going on about, or why they would compare the province of B.C. to a country like Cuba instead of the other provinces,” said Ralston, “but they clearly don’t take the struggles B.C. families are facing very seriously. They are simply out of touch.”

Ralston said he agrees with the report which says an investment in education and skills training is a key component of addressing the income disparity.

“Adrian Dix and the New Democrats have been calling for better investment in education for years, yet those calls have fallen on deaf ears,” said Ralston.

Adrian Dix has proposed reinstating needs-based grants for post-secondary students. The non-repayable grant program – eliminated by the Liberals in the 2004-05 fiscal year – would be financed through reinstating a minimum tax on financial institutions.

The B.C. Stats report can be found here: http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/releases/info2012/in1204.pdf