Opinion

FLETCHER: Dix and NDP’s budget plan is borrow and spend

NDP leader Adrian Dix has finally rolled out his “fully costed” election platform.

Major policy announcements had been released previously but there was plenty more spending added to the total.

The NDP’s health care plan is surprisingly modest: more money for home support, residential senior care, mental health and addiction services, and a rural acute care initiative totalling $159 million over three years.

As health critic Mike Farnworth of Port Coquitlam points out, the residential care increase will allow seniors two baths a week instead of one. Full marks to the NDP for this part of the platform.

Increases to Community Living B.C., children and families programs and aboriginal friendship centres are also commendable.

Other NDP proposals don’t inspire as much confidence.

Raise welfare rates $20 a month and index them to inflation. Index the minimum wage to inflation too, at a time when inflation can only rise.

Set up a new child bonus program to send $70 per month for each child with family income under $25,000. Lesser payments would go to families with income up to $66,000.

This ’70s-style family allowance scheme is based on a “child poverty” claim that misrepresents federal statistics of relative income distribution. The program is optimistically budgeted at $210 million a year. Dix insists it isn’t a “big new social program,” which makes me wonder what would qualify.

It would be partly funded by cancelling a BC Liberal plan to establish education savings accounts for kids born after 2006. Out with self-reliance, in with the nanny state.

Another $100 million is added to hire more teachers to address the BC Teachers’ Federation’s often-repeated but false claim of “a decade of cuts” in education.

Another $100 million goes to student grants, much of it further subsidizing the oversupply of English, education, sociology, women’s studies, journalism and other university grads who eventually discover there is little demand for their degrees. As with welfare, increasing support for bad choices can only yield more bad choices.

On a related note, the NDP will revive a ministry of women’s equality, “to promote social and economic equality to all government programs.” As with female candidate quotas, the NDP keeps the flame of ’70s socialist feminism alive.

The party totals up its new program spending to $988 million over three years. That’s exactly the amount Dix estimates will be raised by tax hikes on corporate income, bank capital, personal income over $150,000, a carbon tax on oil and gas drilling, and cancelling the BC Liberals’ RESP and child tax credit plans.

As for deficits, the NDP claims the BC Liberal budget hides a deficit of $800 million this year and similar deficits in the next two years. The BC Liberals point to an impressive string of “net zero” wage settlements with public sector unions, the core of their spending control record.

Would the NDP continue to hold the line on public service wages, as the BC Liberals have done?

Dix’s NDP caucus and staff is stocked with former government union officials. Party president Moe Sihota is essentially a direct employee of the same unions. The BC Federation of Labour has shaped the NDP’s Labour Code changes, which we won’t see until after the May 14 vote.

And how much money does the “fully costed” NDP plan set aside to pay wage increases for its government union brothers and sisters? Zero.

Since this is the party that appears to be cruising to victory in the May 14 election, I’ll look at what’s not in their platform and other issues next week.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and bclocalnews.com.

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

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