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Kootenay West MLA slams Liberal budget

Christy Clark's B.C. Liberal government released the 2014 budget Tuesday with Finance Minister, Mike de Jong labelling it as, “boring and balanced,” but Kootenay West MLA, Katrine Conroy has another opinion of it.

“This was a budget of rhetoric and slogans,” Conroy said in an interview with the Trail Times from Victoria on Wednesday.

“There is nothing in there for the families in this region. Christy Clark campaigned on the 'debt-free B.C.' slogan but they're saying themselves the provincial debt will rise to almost $70 billion in three years. They call it balanced but they're leaving a huge debt for our children and grandchildren.”

Conroy referred to increases in the Liberal budget to Medical Service Plan rates, ICBC rates, and B.C. Ferries rates as 'hidden' taxes that will affect working families across the province.

“They raved about skills training in their throne speech last week but there's nothing about it in the budget,” said Conroy.

“They're looking at $109 million in cuts over the next three years to post secondary, that's a significant decline in funding.

“The premier's Jobs Plan is a failure, they said themselves in the budget unemployment will increase and they're talking about a 46 per cent cut to employment programs. I don't see how that's going to help our unemployed or those struggling to find a way off of income assistance.”

Conroy dismissed the budget's plan to increase health spending by $2.5 billion over three years as insufficient.

“That amount barely maintains the health care system, I don't think it'll even cover wage increases,” she said.

“There was nothing in there for mental health, another one of their election promises and nothing for the Penticton hospital or Dawson Creek. They ran around promising everyone hospitals during the election but there's no mention of funding any of it.”

Another issue Conroy says the budget failed to address was the recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling compelling the government to restore negotiations over class size and composition in the education system and pay $2 million in damages to the B.C. Teacher's Federation.

“Christy Clark was at the cabinet table in 2002 when this all started and they still don't want to deal with it,” Conroy said.

“There are kids graduating now who were in kindergarten then and they've had to go their whole school careers without proper supports and in crowded classrooms. There are kids in Surrey who have been in portables for their entire education and they don't address any of that.”

Conroy also has little faith in the Liberal's suggestions that they will use tax revenue from proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) developments to pay off the province's debt.

“This all just so short-sighted, their fantasy LNG, they said they'd have plants up next year but there's nothing built yet and no funds in this budget for it,” she said. “If this is a balanced budget then it's been balanced on the backs of working people.”

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