BC Budget Update and Reactions


Finance Minister’s Speech


Budget ignores job losses and climbing unemployment
BC Federation of Labour
September 1, 2009

The provincial budget update released today by Finance Minister Colin Hansen ignores the hardships faced by tens of thousands of unemployed British Columbians and their families, focussing instead on minimizing the deficit and tax cuts.

“This budget is another spin doctor’s dream, until you walk out the door into the real world and realize that we have more than 150,000 people without jobs, forest communities in crisis, seniors without proper care and students without a chance to get a decent education or proper training,” says Jim Sinclair, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour.

“At a time when industrialized countries around the world are spending aggressively to protect and create jobs, the Campbell administration is preoccupied instead with minimizing the deficit which will cause even more job losses,” says Jim Sinclair.

“This budget does nothing to get people back to work. It does nothing to get people into classrooms for training or retraining. It does nothing to help British Columbians weather the economic downturn or prepare for a recovery,” Sinclair added. “In real terms, the government should be spending money to put people in school and to work. Instead of helping people and communities they are going to axe 1,500 jobs in the public sector.”

Sinclair also noted that today the minimum wage in British Columbia became the lowest in Canada.

“The people of British Columbia do not want an HST tax transfer from consumers to corporations, instead they want the HST killed and the minimum wage raised,” he said. “Shame on Gordon Campbell for telling us to tighten our belts while he has doubled his own salary and benefits.”

Although the government says it is protecting health care and education, the front line workers who deliver those services are anticipating severe cuts in both health care and education. “Every day we hear of cuts to health care and education but to listen to the Finance Minister all is well in British Columbia and there’s lots of money for services.”

“Colin Hansen was the last Finance Minister in the industrialized world to spot this economic collapse. He now wants us to believe that he’s spotted a supposed recovery,” Sinclair added. “This government doesn’t understand that a so-called ‘jobless recovery’ is not a real recovery. BC has lost full-time jobs faster than any other province. This budget does nothing to reduce those numbers, and combined with the HST will lead to even more lost jobs.”


Working families pay more and get less from B.C. budget
Sep 1 ’09

Today’s provincial budget continues the pattern established by the B.C. Liberal government of shifting the tax burden onto working families and cutting core public services, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union.

“While other governments are introducing comprehensive stimulus packages to weather the recession, the Campbell government is increasing costs to working families and starving public services,” says BCGEU President Darryl Walker.

The recession is already taking its toll on B.C. families with the number of Employment Insurance recipients up 140% and temporary income assistance caseloads up 56.5% since last summer.

“It’s clear that the B.C. Liberal government has no credible plan to address the startling increase in poverty and the ever-expanding services deficit in this province,” says Walker. “The government is taking us down a highly irresponsible path. As public services continue to be gutted, local economies will suffer and the recession will be deeper and longer than it needs to be.”

Although the Campbell government acknowledges that B.C. has one of the leanest public services in Canada, and that there is a significant recruitment and retention problem, the government has no viable plan to rejuvenate the public service.

The budget promises a reduction of 1,500 jobs over the next three years through layoffs and attrition and re-affirms the government’s plans for a freeze on public sector wages. This continues the attack on the public service that began in 2001 when deep and broad-based cuts were made across all ministries.

“The Liberal cuts since 2001 have been particularly devastating for the ‘heartlands’ where key public services have been taken from many communities or eliminated altogether,” says Walker.

Today’s budget confirmed and deepened cuts to important environmental programs such as the Ministry of Environment’s parks, protection, and stewardship programs; Ministry of Forests & Range’s compliance and enforcement programs; and Ministry of Agriculture’s land restoration programs.

The Ministry of Transportation’s highways maintenance and commercial vehicle inspection will see cuts of $29 million this year, with more cuts scheduled for the next two years.

Other Ministries facing administrative and program cuts are Children & Families, Citizen Services, Community Development, Education, Finance, and Labour.

However, nowhere in the budget documents are the number of full-time equivalent jobs (FTEs) listed ministry-by-ministry.

“The lack of transparency in this budget is shocking,” says Walker. “Hiding these numbers makes it difficult to tell what the impact of the public service cuts will mean to British Columbians.”


Budget update – operating grants to districts unchanged
BC School Trustees Association

This afternoon, the government released its September update to its budget and fiscal plan. For K-12 education, the operating grants to boards remain unchanged to the amounts announced last February. However, other segments of the budget that cover facility grants and other discretionary grants have been cut.

Funding for the gradual implementation of full-day Kindergarten will appear in future budgets, with an additional $44 million expected for 2010 and $107 million for 2011. Although no exemptions from the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) were announced for boards of education, Finance Minister Colin Hansen said that governments will look at any incremental costs incurred by boards due to the HST when planning for next year’s budget.

President Denesiuk stated that, “while it is good news that board allocations have not been reduced, we know that costs continue to rise, increasing financial pressure on boards. The loss of AFG funding and other discretionary grants will have a significant impact on boards and will affect staffing and programs.”

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Back-to-school budget fails BC kids
BCTF News Release
Sept 1, 2009

The latest BC Liberal budget, delivered one week before students head back to school, will not protect public education and will lead to more cuts in our classrooms, BC Teachers’ Federation Vice-President Susan Lambert said today.

“Once again, this government has brought forward a budget that will see school boards pressured to make dramatic cuts to BC’s kids,” said Lambert. “School boards will be forced to pay for an increase in Medical Service Plan rates, the first since 2002, without receiving any extra funding to cover the costs. That will have a direct impact on classrooms.”

As students get ready to head back to the classroom, school boards are already reeling from a $110 million cut to the Annual Facilities Grant. Over the summer, school boards planned and in most cases paid for important school repairs and upgrades. Last week, the minister of education abruptly announced that grant would no longer be funded, sending many district budgets into disarray.

“The government’s promise to implement all-day Kindergarten is also raising big red flags,” said Lambert. “There’s no new funding this year to start planning, developing curriculum, or securing space. We could be looking at another broken promise and more disappointment a year from now.

“This budget doesn’t even meet the needs of students today, let alone a year from now. There is no new funding to reduce class sizes or improve support for students with special needs. We already know that there will be 500–600 fewer teachers when classes resume next week. This budget will only make things worse for BC’s kids.”

In addition to the $110 million cut to the Annual Facilities Grant, school boards were told last spring to cut $12 million in their administration costs. The government also cut the operating funding for BC School Sports, an organization that runs extra-curricular athletic programs across the province.


Working families pay more, get less
NEWS RELEASE – September 1, 2009

BC Budget increases middle class tax burden

VICTORIA—The Provincial Budget announced today cuts jobs, reduces services for people who need them most, and continues the Liberal shift of the tax burden away from corporations and the wealthy onto the middle class, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“The government can’t have it both ways,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill. “They can’t say, on one hand, that the budget is all about protecting vital services while at the same time cutting funds for K-12 and post-secondary education, student aid and day care.”

School boards will be particularly hard hit by the Budget, facing more than $130 million cuts in both of the next two years. In addition, school boards will not be exempt from the Harmonized Sales Tax. “And we’re not talking about frills with these cuts. Even repair costs that accompany seismic upgrades in public schools, such as roof replacements, mechanical and electrical system upgrades, and asbestos abatement, are no longer funded,” says O’Neill.

With post-secondary institutions also getting cuts in infrastructure funding, the condition of B.C. colleges and universities will continue to deteriorate, he adds. Working families and the middle class will have to eat new MSP and HST expenses, and students who can’t find jobs in the summer will have their student aid cut.

The BC Budget also hurts communities with cuts to community service agencies. Capital project grants, playground grants and three-year grants will no longer be eligible for funding this year from community gaming grants.

Nor is daycare exempt from the budget knife. “How can the government boast about protecting vital services when they’re cutting daycare in the Downtown Eastside?” asks O’Neill, referring specifically to cuts at Ray-Cam Cooperative Community Centre in Vancouver, which lost three positions that work with special needs children.

“What all British Columbians expect is fair taxation. But middle class families will pay more in regressive taxes like the HST and the MSP while wealthy British Columbians will get more of the benefits from tax cuts. How is that fair?”


CCPA – Policy Notes

For K-12 education the picture is much worse, with a cut of $31 million from February — a measly $3 million increase over 2008/09 (on a budget of $5.7 billion). This is going to hurt and already school districts and schools across BC are implementing cuts to staff and increases in class size. For post-secondary education there is an increase of $160 million from February and $177 million, or 3.9%, over 2008/09 –  not great (especially with the prospect of rising enrollment due to the recession) but increases nonetheless.

What is going to sting are a litany of smaller cuts spread across all of the government’s operations, in particular reduced or eliminated grants to NGO service providers and charities, arts and culture groups, and students. All told these cuts are tiny compared to the overall provincial budget, but devastating to the programs themselves.

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