No more borrowing for “groceries.”
At least that is what Finance Minister Mike de Jong said when explaining B.C. budget surpluses this year and in the coming years will largely be used to pay down the provincial operating debt.
Unless you are an already struggling family, according to the official opposition, British Columbians will face more fee and rate hikes in 2015, according to a press release issued by the NDP.
Christy Clark’s Liberal government announced a balanced budget on Tuesday.
Flat wages and increasing costs might have some families scraping for money to feed their families.
That means there is little in the budget to help sectors like education, which is falling farther behind every budget and having to direct more money away from educating students to paying the costs of just being able to keep school doors open.
Jim Iker, president of the BC Teacher’s Federation, points out that while the budget does include some additional funding to meet the costs of the new collective agreement settled with teachers last year, much of the money is simply being moved around by forcing cuts onto school districts in other areas.
In addition, the government is increasing the Medical Services Plan premiums by four per cent, not covering inflation, and refusing to pay for the new MyEducationBC computer program, all of which will download more unfunded costs to school boards.
In a time of ongoing economic uncertainty on the global stage, a free-spending budget would be a mistake.
And fiscal discipline, coupled with initiatives to help challenges facing business should be applauded.
But if B.C.’s economic out look is as stable as de Jong predicts, with surpluses of more than $250 million over the next three years, perhaps it is time to start reinvesting in some of those soft costs, like education and social services, which may not show immediate benefits, but have a huge payoff down the road.