Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett is critical of the 2020 budget presented by B.C. Finance Minister Carole James on Tuesday, Feb. 18. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

B.C. budget ‘not friendly’: Cariboo Chilcotin MLA

As critic of rural development, Donna Barnett said she sees nothing in the budget for rural B.C.

Critical of budget 2020 Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said it is ‘not friendly’ for ordinary citizens.

“There is absolutely nothing in the budget for rural British Columbia, especially in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, that I can find,” she told the Tribune Thursday.

“As critic for rural development I certainly will be asking many questions when we get the estimates.”

Citing cuts to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to the tune of $106 million, Barnett said almost every ministry budget has been decreased with the exception of health.

Taxes will increased to $5.7 billion this year and up to $8.8 billion next year, she added.

“Telling people the government is making their lives more affordable is an “insult to their integrity. By 2022 total taxation will have increased almost $4,700 per household. We now have 24 new taxes since the NDP were elected.”

Expenses have increased $11.4 billion up to this year and by next year will have increased by $14.95 billion, Barnett said.

“The finance minister confirmed today they overspent by nearly $500 million last year and failed to follow through on capital projects worth over $1 billion.”

New provincial taxes from Netflix and Spotify streamlining are expected to bring in $11 million in 2020 and people earning above $220,000 will be taxed 20.5 per cent up from 16.8 per cent which will add $216 million in new revenue in 2020 and 2021, while taxation of sugar drinks will bring in $27 million, Barnett said.

Read more: Budget 2020: B.C. NDP taps top tax bracket for more revenue

“In order to balance their budget they keep finding other ways to tax the consumer — don’t tell me life is more affordable for British Columbians. Every time you add another carbon tax, up goes everything.”

She believes the estimates will begin some time next week, going through each ministry.

Meanwhile, the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia commended the government for achieving a balanced budget while still investing in social and capital projects.

“The surplus will be largely funded by a personal income tax increase, with the highest provincial marginal tax rate (for taxable income over $220,000) increasing from 16.8 per cent to 20.5 per cent effective January 1, 2020,” said Lori Mathison, FCPA, FCGA, LLB, president and CEO of CPABC. “This could impact the attraction and retention of top talent in the province.”

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, senior economist Iglika Ivanova noted in a press release there were some bright points in the budget, such as the new tax bracket for the top one per cent of earners, but the budget ‘failed to ramp up crucial social and environmental investments.’

“The budget continues B.C,’s long-running pattern of underestimating the financial resources available, leaving large sums of money on the table that should be put towards badly needed investments in areas like housing, poverty reduction and action to address the climate emergency,” a CCPA report stated.

Read more: Budget 2020: ICBC ‘dumpster fire’ to turn into $86M surplus, NDP say

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