Black blasts 'balanced' budget
While the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce applauded the provincial government committing to a balanced budget for 2013, the city's MLA wasn't clapping her hands.
Finance Minister Mike De Jong presented the budget in the legislature on Tuesday which included raising the corporate income tax from 10 to 11 per cent and an increase in personal income tax for those earning more than $150,000 to help balance the books. The chamber was happy with De Jong's commitment but with a reservation.
"We are pleased to see that our small business community will not see an increase in taxation," said incoming chamber president Christine Conway in a press release. "What concerns us more [than the one per cent corporate tax hike] is the financial impact the return to [a provincial sales tax on April 1] will have on our businesses and the lack of any mention of it in today's budget."
The balanced budget pronouncement gave New Westminster MLA Dawn Black a feeling of déjà vu from four years ago.
"I reflect back on the 2009 pre-election budget when they said there was only be a maximum $495 million deficit and then right after the election we discovered there was a $2 billion deficit, so it's pretty hard for the Liberals to have credibility on a balanced budget" said the New Democrat who will not run in the scheduled election in May in an interview Wednesday.
Black couldn't say if the NDP would aim for a balanced budget if it were in power.
"We'll see. It would be a goal over a lifetime of an NDP government, but there are services that need to be maintained for people, and we'll be costing them out," said Black.
She went on to say the Liberals are a tired government who has run out of ideas with a priority of getting reelected and not meeting the needs of New Westminster and British Columbia residents. The budget, Black said, seriously underestimates the expenditures needed to pay for health care and education.
"That's how they come up with hocus pocus to say they have a balanced budget," said Black. "There is no effort to address job training, no reinvesting in land base such as forestry to make up for lack of action and nothing to address climate change, the most critical issue that faces B.C and probably the world today."
The New Westminster school district as well as those in Coquitlam, Vancouver and elsewhere in the province are dealing with deficits. Boards of education often cite the Ministry of Education funds provided to districts isn't enough to cover the increase in salaries negotiated by the province.
"It's just another indication how this government has downloaded costs onto school boards across the province," said Black.
She also took aim at the government's proposal to sell 100 property assets it has around the province to avoid going into the red for 2013.
"It would be impossible to sell them off fast enough to balance off the budget in a year," said Black.
An NDP government wouldn't rule out selling some of the properties, "however to sell 100 identified assets in a very short period of time is not good stewardship for the province. It just stretches credibility," said Black.