Austerity measures in our future?

It’s hard to watch the images of the rioting in Greece and not feel like I’m watching a rerun of the Canucks riot in Vancouver; the images of riot-gear-clad police fighting against mostly young people involved in damaging public and private property are eerily similar.

It’s hard to watch the images of the rioting in Greece and not feel like I’m watching a rerun of the Canucks riot in Vancouver; the images of riot-gear-clad police fighting against mostly young people involved in damaging public and private property are eerily similar.

Of course, the reasons for the two riots are as far apart as Vancouver is from Athens geographically — for now. I say for now as I’m deeply concerned that, like the people of Greece, we’re simply not paying enough attention to the state of our province’s finances.

I fear that one day we may wake up to Greek-like austerity measures being taken by our government, which will cause our young people to take to the streets for a more meaningful reason than the loss of a hockey game. B.C. is facing many more years of deficit financing and significant increases in public and private debt loads.

Regardless which party wins the next election, it will be impossible for any government to meet the legal requirement to balance B.C.’s books by 2013/14 without either raising taxes or gutting public spending, or both. In a letter prefacing this year’s budget, the deputy minister states the government projected a balanced budget for 2013/14 by assuming annual spending growth will not exceed an average of  two per cent over the three years of the fiscal plan; an assumption that “is below actual historic spending growth levels.”

This assumption includes zero per cent wage increases for teachers and other public sector contracts that will expire over the next few years.

It presumes reductions in social service demands and minimal spending on natural disasters and forest fires.

It does not take into account rapidly increasing inflation, the likelihood of increased interest rates, or the rapid deterioration of our infrastructure. It doesn’t address the costly implications of an ageing population and the poor health of our youth population.

The current budget is unrealistic; there is no way B.C.’s books will be balanced by 2013/14.  Once we’re no longer distracted by the HST debate, I hope we’ll engage in a real debate about the state of B.C.’s finances — without the partisan rhetoric that political parties bring to the table.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Grade 2 class of 150 Mile House Elementary attended Cariboo Memorial Hospital with teacher Kirsty Bowers to deliver “kindness” bags full of small gifts to housekeeping staff. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
150 Mile House students deliver gift bags showing appreciation for hospital staff

Students begin Monday morning with a bus trip to Cariboo Memorial Hospital

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

The RCMP arrest one of the suspects on Highway 97 courtesy of cell phone footage shot by a bystander. (April Thomas photo)
UPDATE: Two suspects arrested after multi-jurisdictional chase

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read