Bruce Ralston: B.C. Liberals table bogus budget filled with accounting tricks
The B.C. Liberal government’s budget tabled last week is not a balanced budget. It is a bogus budget, filled with accounting tricks, unrealistic revenue projections, and unsustainable expenditures in areas that support British Columbians like health care, postsecondary education, and skills training.
In reality, this is the fifth deficit budget in a row tabled by the Liberals.
This budget relies on nearly $800 million from a fire sale of B.C.’s valuable land and assets. Never mind how short-sighted that plan is, most of the properties they are banking on aren’t even for sale yet. Since they first announced their fire sale in the 2012 budget, they’ve completed no sales.
Respected economist Don Drummond wrote a report for the Ontario government that addressed the issue of asset sales. He advised, “Do not count chickens before they are hatched. If assets are to be sold, never incorporate any revenue from such planned sales into a budget before the fact.”
But that’s exactly what the Liberals are doing.
The Liberals’ projected expenditures are unrealistic and unsustainable. Just look at the health care budget. They cut the projected increase to health care by $233 million, but failed to tell British Columbians the truth about what that will mean to them.
Either the $233-million drop in health spending isn't credible, or the Liberal government is planning more service cuts to health care.
Remember that before the 2009 election the Liberals said they would protect health care, but right after the Liberals were returned to office, they forced health authorities to make cuts to the services British Columbians rely on.
British Columbians also haven’t forgotten that the Liberals promised before the 2009 election that their deficit budget would be in the red by $495 million “maximum”, which ballooned to almost $2 billion after the election.
The Liberals also promised, in writing, that they wouldn’t implement an HST before the 2009 election. Yet they have squandered their entire term in office on the HST, creating uncertainty in the B.C. economy with a massive tax shift from big corporations to working families and small businesses that voters eventually rejected.
While the Liberals spend nearly $17 million of taxpayers’ money on pre-election partisan ads to promote the premier’s record on skills training, their budget reveals the truth: they have again cut the budget for postsecondary education, a decision that will negatively affect our province's long-term prosperity.
This budget predicts a reduction in the number of student spaces in college and university, provides less money for student assistance and less support for advanced education. There is no new investment in apprenticeship and industry training.
In contrast, New Democrats will present a practical plan connected to the priorities of British Columbia and its regions. Priorities like improving access to skills training and postsecondary education. Our plan will focus on key priorities that will reduce inequality and improve our economy. And we’ll show how we will pay for our priorities.
For example, New Democrat leader Adrian Dix has proposed a nonrepayable student grant program for young British Columbians and workers in transition to gain access to postsecondary programs, which we will fund through the reinstatement of a tax on big banks.
The Liberals’ budget is not balanced and it promises to saddle the next government with a very serious fiscal situation. It shows the Liberals are not up to the challenges facing B.C. today. It’s time for a new and better government that is more connected to British Columbians.
Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats are offering change for the better, one practical step at a time.