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Nelson-Creston's Mungall says budget shows party out of ideas - Greens say environment ignored
Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall says the budget delivered Tuesday was not what British Columbians were looking for despite borrowing from NDP on the issue of tax hikes,
“It just seems to me that they’re out of ideas,” she says. “They’re out of touch with what’s going on with British Columbians. They’re out of gas and out of ideas.”
Finance Minister Mike de Jong resorted to raising income taxes for corporations and high-income earners to help bridge the gap from deficit to surplus before the May election.
Boosting health-care premiums by four per cent is another cash grab, something the NDP doesn’t favour, says Mungall.
“That is a concern for a lot of people especially those on a fixed income,” she says.
As the local MLA considers the budget, she says the most glaring issue is cuts to post secondary education – a $4 million cut this year and just over $40 million cut in the next two fiscal years. This is despite Liberal research showing investment is needed due to a skilled labour shortage affecting the entire province by 2016.
“The top place for investment by governments should be post secondary education but the Liberals have cut it yet again,” she says. “This means 6,000 less spaces at a time when we actually need to be increasing spaces in post secondary.”
This has an impact in the Kootenays with Selkirk College needing support to provide for the local labour market.
“Our area is projecting one of the most serious gaps in skilled labour between our ability fill it and the demand,” says Mungall.
The NDP suggest investing $100 million into financial needs grants and offered up the idea to the Liberals who chose to come up with their own RESP plan “that won’t benefit anyone until 2025,” says Mungal.
“The amount that they’re offering is one-quarter of one year’s tuition and that child has to have had parents who are about to open an RESP. Children in foster care aren’t eligible or any child whose parents didn’t open an RESP for any reason aren’t eligible,” she says. “This causes parents to have to jump through hoops. We’re not helping the people who are in most need of a post secondary education and have the most difficult access to it in this type of program.”
Finance Minister de Jong announced in Tuesday's budget that payouts of $1,200 would be made from the fund for each child as they turn six years old. To qualify, registered parents have to open a Registered Education Savings Plan and apply for the grant before their child turns seven.
Eligible children are those born on or after Jan. 1, 2007, resident in B.C. with an RESP account set up by Feb. 28, 2014.
Literacy programs are also being cut, says Mungall concerned about what this also means for people struggling for education.
“Literacy is the basis for getting the skills training on needs for a job so basically they’re saying these jobs are available but not for people who are struggling right now and want to improve,” says Mungall.
The budget shows Liberals improperly supporting local industries such as forestry and film.
“They’re putting all their eggs in one basket and that’s liquefied natural gas,” says Mungall, calling this an unusual strategy considering “not one plant’s been built.”
Nelson-Creston’s Green Party hopeful Sjeng Derkx saw obvious omissions from this week’s budget. With global warming the most pressing issue, he was concerned to see it not mentioned once by either the Liberals or NDP.
“No wonder – both the old parties want to continue to send billions of your tax dollars to rich oil and gas companies,” he says, “while wiser governments around the world have stimulated over a trillion dollars (that's about 25 times the entire BC budget) in clean energy business opportunities and hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
Derkx is disappointed to see the Livesmart program cut in this budget. He says this along with Nelson’s Ecosave program doubled the business of some local plumbers. This is a great example of economic development with the environment in mind.
“We are at a turning point in history, and we can choose this budget's direction, which is to bet our future on the old carbon fuel based economy or we can focus on the thriving new post carbon economy,” he says.
The Green Party has plans for BC to deal with global warming in practical ways to help local governments and businesses capitalize on the exciting opportunities and create good local jobs, says Derkx.
With a provincial election set for May 14, this budget will not be passed by the time the brief legislature session ends in late March. Its measures are part of a campaign platform for Clark’s government, and the winner of the election must pass a budget in the fall.