Real investment in health, education would pay off over the long term

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
April 18, 2017 - 8:00am

KAMLOOPS — Suppose, just for a moment, that BC decided to hire and pay a salary to doctors willing to locate to communities outside of the Lower Mainland. For sake of argument, let’s say we committed to pay 200 doctors, $150,000 a year to set up practice in the Interior.  Add in another 25 per cent for benefits and the total annual cost to we, the taxpayer, would be $37,500,000 a year.

Apart from health, education is another vital part of our community as it creates future wealth by training the next generation of workers.  

In Newfoundland and Labrador they have lowered tuition and made the provincial portion of any student loan a non-repayable grant. What if we did a hybrid version of that and simply contributed, in the form of a non-repayable grant, $2,000 towards tuition?  

According to Stats Canada, there were 112,000 full-time university students registered in BC last year, so it would cost the taxpayer a whopping $224,000,000 per year and that would be crazy wouldn’t it?

Despite being an investment in our future, implementation would almost certainly guarantee a taxpayer revolt like we have never experienced. Imagine investing that kind of money in something so frivolous and unimportant as the well being of the people of this province.

The comment section of this column would come alive with readers explaining how unaffordable it is. I’d be chastised because, well because there’s no immediate payout...unless we consider an educated workforce an important economic benefit not to mention a cared for and healthy rural population.

Still, keyboards would blaze with indignation as readers demanded to know how we could ever pay for it. The poor taxpayer can take no more and fortunately I agree. But wait - as those famous infomercials are fond of saying - there’s more.

It seems to be okay to invest our tax dollars in a questionable mega project like the Site C dam where the BC Liberal Party donor list is a likely source for determining the net beneficiaries of that investment. However, it is not okay to invest in the people of British Columbia. Except for election time promises, we never seem to have enough money for things like health and education.

Site C is budgeted at over $9 billion and, being government, it will probably end up costing $15 billion or more. Billions of taxpayer dollars to generate power we don’t need and can’t sell to others. And it is an investment in an old energy technology that will be replaced sometime in the not so distant future.

So far, payment for this dam is being hidden in increased BC Hydro bills to homeowners and buried in the now infamous BC Hydro deferral accounts. 

Repurposed, that $9- $15 billion would go a long way towards directly benefiting and improving the lives of British Columbians and the return on investment would likely be faster and greater than a dam with no customers.  

According to the Liberal government, we haven’t got the money kicking around for these needed and beneficial services. Well actually we do but it’s for a corporate-friendly mega project and the cost is being hidden through indirect taxation. So yes you are paying for it even though you said and government more taxes.

Somewhere along the line I think we got our priorities mixed up. And maybe, just maybe, it isn’t all that crazy to redirect and invest in our long term health and education before going on wild mega project spending sprees.

Of course, I might have my priorities wrong and you really do want to fund billions of dollars for an unneeded mega dam while continuing to face a doctor shortage across rural British Columbia. If so, here is your chance to speak up and demand $9 billion dollar dams instead of basic health care and affordable education for your children.