Shane Simpson: Let's make sensible investments in B.C.’s long-term prosperity

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      Would you believe a friend who told you they’re rich because they just bought a 6/49 lotto ticket? Probably not. But Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals are asking you to do just that.

      The premier is campaigning on the wishful fiction she’s presented a balanced budget by gambling that her government will be able to sell off $625 million in property in two years, and betting heavily on the future price of natural gas. This, despite the fact that the government has forecasted the value of the resource wrong in five of the last eight of their budgets—and was forced to make a last minute correction to the current budget when an economist they hired to review the math didn’t agree with their projections.

      As I knock on doors in my riding, I get a clear sense that people are no longer buying the B.C. Liberal gamble; that the priorities of the current government leave people behind. Moreover, people don’t seem to trust that the government is serious about reducing child poverty or dealing effectively with widening inequality.

      Achieving positive change first requires understanding what research has already told us: long-term increases in poverty and inequality hurt people, and damage our economy in terms of growth, its resistance to global volatility, and resiliency following a downturn.

      As New Democrats, we recognize the choice between a healthy economy and an equitable economy is false. We propose instead, that one cannot exist without the other.

      Positive change means establishing the conditions for growth by addressing the things that hold people back. That’s why an NDP government would do what seven other provinces have already done and introduce a legislated road map for poverty reduction that holds government accountable with targets and timelines. Additionally, we would take the politics out of income assistance rates by indexing them to inflation, while doubling earning exemptions for those who are employable, and allowing a child maintenance exemption. Rates for couples and singles would also be increased by $20 per month within two years.

      By making a $210 million annual investment in a B.C. Family Bonus Program, we believe we can lift as many as 8,400 children and their families out of poverty. Under the program, families would receive an extra $60 to $70 per child per month to a maximum of $829 a year.

      We believe we can create more affordable housing  for low- and moderate-income families, seniors and individuals by leveraging the existing $250 million Housing Endowment Fund. The fund has the potential to allow us to support partnerships and equity contributions with local governments, the private sector, non-profit and co-op housing sectors; it would also build up to 1,500 units of affordable non-profit, co-op, and rental housing.

      It’s also no secret that change for the better requires investments in childcare and early learning. Currently three in 10 children are not considered developmentally ready when they first enter the school system. Together we can change this with the creation of an Early Years Innovation Fund which would invest in early learning. We can provide parents with peace of mind by increasing the number of affordable childcare spaces, and cutting fees for infant and toddler care by 20 percent. We estimate this would save families an average of $2,000 a year.

      This is the kind of practical change that is made possible when you shift fiscal priorities and make sensible investments in B.C.’s long-term prosperity by refocusing on people.  

      The B.C. Liberals have spent millions of your tax dollars on ads telling you to accept more of the same. I believe that in a province as rich as ours, with an abundance of resources and hard-working people, our biggest gamble is not seizing the opportunity for change.  It’s time to make a change for the better, with practical steps that will make a real difference in people’s lives. Join me, Adrian Dix, and thousands of other British Columbians by voting for a change for the better on May 14.