Gordon Campbell and Colin Hansen introduced a fudge-it budget

> By  Gabriel Yiu, NDP candidate in Vancouver-Fraserview  

True to Gordon Campbell’s style, this is a dubious budget.

Last December, a great many British Columbian workers had already received layoff notices. Unemployment surged while revenue going to the government treasury was in drastic decline.

However, as late as mid-January, the Campbell government still said B.C.’s economy was fine and a balanced budget would be tabled.

Early February, Premier Campbell abruptly announced to the public that government revenue had seen the biggest drop in history. Campbell said revenue would be reduced by $6 billion in the next three years and B.C. would see two consecutive deficit budgets.

Two weeks later, the Liberal government released its budget. Finance Minister Collin Hanson stated that over the next three years, health-care funding would increase by $4.8 billion, per-student funding would be increased to the highest level in B.C.’s history, and there would be a $228-million increase for post-secondary education.

The amazing thing is that the deficits for the next two years are only $495 million and $245 million.

According to the premier, government revenue has dropped $6 billion and the government is increasing funding for the two biggest expense items in the budget, but the deficit is only a few hundred million dollars. Isn’t it amazing?

Let’s do a comparison. B.C.’s highest deficit was recorded in 2002/2003, at $3.15 billion, with the same Liberal government. With a much better economy than today’s, yet the 2002/2003 deficit was over six times more than next year’s as announced.

The Campbell government said the deficit for the next financial year would be merely $495 million.   It sounds so much like the manifestly untrue claim, “The Olympics would only cost $600 million”, doesn’t it?

The more remarkable fact is, when a government finance report stated that retail and real estate sales are all dropping and the economy is in bad shape, the finance minister is projecting revenue increases in many fields.

The Liberal government expects personal income tax revenue to increase by $343 million, sales tax revenue by $89 million, government investment income by 9.4 percent  ($79 million), B.C. Hydro revenue by 27 percent  ($95 million) and gambling revenue by 5 percent  ($53 million).

Let’s examine the economic reality. B.C. lost 68,000 full-time jobs in January alone, but the Liberal government still thinks that personal income tax revenue would increase.

When retailers and real-estate developers are all suffering from plummeting sales, the Campbell government is projecting an increase of sales tax of $89 million.

When this province’s biggest consumers of electricity—pulp-mills, sawmills and mines—have been shut down or their operations reduced, the finance minister expects 27 percent  increase in B.C. Hydro revenue.

When government, corporate and individual investors around the world are suffering from investment loss, Colin Hansen thinks his government’s investment would get an increase of 9.4 percent  in return.

What kinds of investments are they?

The puzzling contradictions are quite simple really. The Liberals over-estimated their revenue and did not count some expenditures, resulting in a much lower deficit.

This budget again shows how untrustworthy Gordon Campbell is. The recent gang slaying finally forced the premier and his attorney general to respond last week, announcing an increase of 168 police and 10 prosecutors. Nevertheless, there is no mention of crime-fighting in this month’s 7,000-word Throne Speech.

The even more incredible fact is this: in the latest budget, the public safety ministry, which is responsible for police operation, has its budget frozen for  three years!

In addition, the budget for court services is being cut by $9 million and prosecution services are being cut by more than $1 million.

There would be a cut of 14 percent  in the number of prosecutors. All these reveal once again that Gordon Campbell’s words don’t match his actions or inactions.

If we review the core or catch-phrase of Campbell’s past budgets, we see last year was climate-change year, the previous year was housing, further back children, then health and seniors, and then Heartland.

Unfortunately, the fact is these slogan-ridden budgets not only don’t deliver, the highlighted areas have actually deteriorated.

Homelessness in BC has increased  by more than  300 percent. B.C. has had the highest rate of child poverty in Canada for five consecutive years. The quality of service to seniors has worsened.

The promise of building 5,000 long-term care beds is gone and our forestry industry has slumped to a historic crisis.

As for climate change, Campbell has already lost his appetite for the initiative but the bad carbon tax is still being implemented.

Earlier, the Liberals spent a lot of taxpayer’s money buying advertisement saying the government wanted to consult the public on its budget. The result? The most hated carbon tax not only wouldn’t be abandoned or frozen; it would be increased three times in this adverse economic time.