Finance Minister Carole James delivers her budget speech in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2019. (B.C. government)

COLUMNS: Budget 2019 harkens the 90s

Finance minister has increased government spending by more than 25 percent in less than two years

This week finance minister Carole James delivered a budget that’s big on spending but doesn’t leave much in the way of wiggle room if the economy suddenly decides to go south on us, even by just a little bit.

And that’s a big problem because the finance minister has increased government spending by more than 25 percent in less than two years.

To support her spending habit, James has “balanced” the budget with corresponding tax hikes, largely by boosting the carbon tax annually to the tune of $6 billion over the next three years.

For a government that loves to claim it’s “making life more affordable for British Columbians,” many wonder how non-stop tax increases to gasoline, home heating fuel or the cost of shipping groceries makes that even remotely possible?

In her second budget, James continues to charge MSP premiums on top of the new and highly unpopular Employer Health Tax (EHT). That’s what many regard as ‘double dipping.’

READ MORE: Rural B.C. hit in the pocket book by ICBC increases

By saddling business and local government with the cost of health care, all of that overhead eventually gets passed along to consumers and property tax payers.

Fact is, there are lots of things the government can’t control like a potential downturn in the global economy. Unpredictable events like wildfires, floods or even landslides like the one at Old Fort can burn through the finance minister’s razor thin budget surplus.

So if you are running your budget so close to the margins and something unexpected happens, BC will suddenly find itself in deficit financing once again.

With no jobs plan, nothing to stimulate the economy and not even a mention of a single budget item for the agriculture industry or energy sector, we now find ourselves on a familiar pathway back to the 1990s when B.C. became a have-not province dependent on federal assistance payments.

Good thing I didn’t throw out all my Hootie and the Blowfish CDs. Carole James might need something to cheer her up while she pulls down the whole province kicking and screaming down memory lane.

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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