How affordable is this ‘make life more affordable’ budget?

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
February 21, 2018 - 7:37am Updated: February 21, 2018 - 11:30am
Image Credit: Government of B.C.

KAMLOOPS — If there was ever any doubt there’s no middle ground in B.C. politics, the NDP government’s budget announced yesterday removes it.

The Liberals, when they were in power, were notorious cheapskates.

The NDP are anything but.

Their new budget will spend generously on childcare, housing, health care, indigenous children and youth, and women survivors of violence, to name a few.

All very worthy recipients.

Question is, who’s going to pay for it? We will, of course. And business.

Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, in offering the Liberal opposition’s official response, quickly drew the battle lines.

While grudgingly acknowledging the NDP’s recognition of families, she painted the new budget as one built on the backs of job creators, a budget that includes no plan to grow the economy.

She’s pretty close to the mark.

Business will pay a new payroll deduction tax to fund the gradual elimination of MSP premiums.

And there are new taxes on the housing market, tobacco, carbon and property transfers. And when business doesn’t do well, nobody does well.

What about us, here in the Interior?

James made several vague references to Terrace, Prince Rupert, and Prince George, but there were no words for the Okanagan or Thompson-Nicola.

We can probably assume the Royal Inland Hospital expansion is somewhere in the $3.1 billion of capital spending promised for hospitals, since the government has offered previous assurances it’s a go.

Does the $2 billion to replace or expand schools include the extensive shopping list from the long-ignored School District 73? Let’s hope so, but we don’t know yet.

There was a passing one-paragraph reference to the doctor shortage, which is, of course, of special interest hereabouts.

There was also mention of tourism and the room tax, but what about forestry and agriculture?

As a social programs document, this “make life more affordable” budget deserves high marks. But if average Joe and Josephine don’t end up paying through the nose for it over the next three years, I’ll come right back here and eat my hat.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.