A ‘political’ budget

Forgive me for thinking that the minister of finance is supposed to be the minister of finance for the Province of British Columbia, not the liberal minister of finance caught between two premiers.

Forgive me for thinking that the minister of finance is supposed to be the minister of finance for the Province of British Columbia, not the liberal minister of finance caught between two premiers.

This is not political rhetoric, but a fundamental question about the very nature of our democratic process: is the finance minister a minister of the Crown whose primary responsibility is to ensure taxpayers get maximum derivative benefits from their hard-earned tax dollars or is the minister merely a function of the premier’s office and of the party the premier represents?

Looking at this week’s budget the answer seems clear, as this was a purely partisan political budget; one which continued the downsizing and restructuring of government initiated by Premier Campbell (including the HST), while, rather than addressing critical and time-sensitive policy, program and public service needs, it parked billions of tax dollars in slush funds to help Mr. Campbell’s replacement put his/her own stamp on the next budget, whenever that one is presented later this year.

This slush money could have been used to address child poverty, improve seniors care, add resources to mental health and addictions services, restore gaming grants, fund relief for the agriculture industry, fund a permanent predator control program, restore the annual facilities grants for schools, invest in community wildfire protection and forest health activities, provided continued funding for the Organized Crime Task Force in the Interior, reinvest in school nutrition programs, provide funding to early intervention therapy and autism services, increase funding for transition-house programs, and extend broadband services into rural remote communities.

In the absence of a premier, we could have had a “people’s budget.” Instead we got a “political budget” in the worst sense of that word.

Please e-mail every Liberal and NDP leadership candidate demanding reform in our political system. Let’s maximize this opportunity to get the changes we need.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.