Cariboo MLAs respond to provincial budget

The Cariboo Chilcotin did not get what it may have wanted or needed out of Tuesday’s provincial budget says Cariboo North Independent MLA Bob Simpson.

The Cariboo Chilcotin did not get what it may have wanted or needed out of Tuesday’s provincial budget says Cariboo North Independent MLA Bob Simpson.

He says programs like predator control went unmentioned, there were cuts to the agriculture and environment ministries, and no direction from the government on increasing the minimum wage despite recommendations to move forward on these issues by the government’s finance committee. There also appeared to be no additional money for wildfire fighting and no details on funding for community fire-protection plans.

“The one thing government is supposed to bring is stability and certainty and good management,” Simpson says. “As citizens we’re not getting the certainty, the stability and the predictability that we require from our government only because of the internal strife in the parties. “It’s not status quo. That would flat line everything,” says Simpson noting the budget appears to be a continuation of Gordon Campbell’s political vision.

Some budget highlights include: $605 million to health care in 2013, an increase in per pupil funding to $8,357, an increase to the Ministry of Social Development of $65 million over three years while funding for other ministries will continue as set out in the 2010 budget. That, says Simpson, isn’t necessarily good news because the 2010 budget outlined cuts to many other ministries over three years. There is also a $2.5 billion forecast allowance/contingency fund for the new premier over the next three years.

The future of the HST and the uncertainty over the next premier was somewhat problematic for budget projections.

The provincial government will receive a total of $1.6 billion from the federal government to implement the HST. So far the government has received $1 billion; this year it will receive $600 million. If the HST is rejected that money will have to be returned.

Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett noted the budget provided few details on specific programs.

“There’s not a lot of extra money in there but there is some flexibility for the new premier and cabinet,” said Barnett, adding the government projects its revenues to increase and its deficit to decrease.

“I think it’s a conservative budget,” she says. “I think it’s one where the government holds the line on spending except for increases on the necessities like health care.”

Barnett agreed that the government to some extent is on hold while the Liberals sort out the leadership question.