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February 24, 2012

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Budget 2012 a missed opportunity

The provincial budget for 2012 was released on February 21.  I’m disappointed, though not surprised, to have to tell you that Premier Christy Clark has missed a significant opportunity to support communities hit hard by the economic downturn that’s hit our province so hard.

We will continue to push the government to bring forward positive solutions to the economic challenges we all face, but the reality is that the BC Liberals have chosen a confrontational and ideological path at the very time our province needs to come together. The news release we issued on Budget Day follows below. If you would like additional detailed information on the provincial budget, CUPE research representative Keith Reynolds has prepared this briefing document.

Budget continues BC Liberal tradition of average citizens
paying more, getting less

VICTORIA—Today’s provincial budget continues the former Campbell government’s tradition of having mid-and low-income British Columbians pay increased fees and taxes to make up for poor economic management, CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill said today.

“This budget is a missed opportunity yet again,” said O’Neill. “Instead of looking to innovation and new ways of doing things, the BC Liberals continue to raise fees and actually make cuts to key sectors of the government like advanced education.

“The finance minister and Premier Christy Clark are quite right to acknowledge the growing demand for skilled workers. The Premier has even announced a so-called ‘jobs plan’, yet she is actually cutting the budget for post-secondary education—and once again increasing tuition fees, putting the dream of college or university out of reach for far too many BC families.”

O’Neill said that in addition to wrongheaded cuts to post-secondary education and training programs, the BC Liberal government is continuing to make life more unaffordable for most BC families.

“Hydro rates are going up by 7 percent. ICBC rates are going up by 11 percent. Medical services premiums are going up by 4 percent, and the Liberals are jacking up tuition fees by 5 percent in the first year of the fiscal plan alone,” said O’Neill. “The premier claims she’s leading a ‘new’ government, but it’s clear from this budget that the Gordon Campbell government is alive and well under an assumed name.”

The government also announced in the budget that it will be selling off so-called “surplus” assets to the private sector.

“This is just bad public policy,” said O’Neill. “It may have escaped the attention of the premier and her finance minister, but communities all over the province are reeling from low employment and a steadily increasing cost of living. Instead of selling off so-called surplus assets, the provincial government should be using these assets to encourage and sustain regional economic activity and job creation.”

In addition to making life more expensive for average British Columbians, O’Neill said that public sector workers will take a double hit. “This government is actually cutting the wages of public sector workers by more than 7 percent between 2010-2014 and expecting them to do more with less.

“The BC Liberals talk a good game about fiscal prudence and sound management, but their record is clear,” said O’Neill. “Average families are paying more and getting less, with no significant improvement in provincial finances. That’s not a record I’d want to put in front of voters next year.”

Barry O’Neill is president of CUPE BC.