Divisions erupt over B.C. budget

B.C.’s financial plan has generated significant debate.

Liberal Finance Minister Michael de Jong released his proposed 2013 budget in the Legislature Tuesday.

“We wanted to balance the budget and we balanced the budget,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

“We’re not giving a whole lot of money away. It’s not a typical pre-election budget but it’s an example of a good fiscal budget.”

Much of the plan hinges on resource development revenue, and Foster says he is confident with the numbers.

“We have gone with the lowest forecast. We are being very prudent on the prediction of income,” he said.

Mark Olsen, NDP candidate,  is concerned B.C.’s ability to provide critical services could be hampered if revenue forecasts from natural resources fall short.

“They are placing all of their eggs in one basket,” he said.

Scott Anderson, Conservative candidate, says there should be carefully regulated development of natural resources.

“Creating high-skill, high-pay jobs is the only way we’ll keep our young people at home,” he said.

Anderson believes de Jong’s proposal penalizes businesses and citizens.

“This budget strikes me as stealing the NDP’s draconian tax regime — higher taxes on both individuals and businesses at a time when companies are folding and families are leaving B.C.,” he said.

The general corporate income tax rate will climb by one per cent to 11 per cent April 1, 2013 and there will be a two-year, 2.1 per cent hike to the personal tax rate for anyone earning more than $150,000.

“In order to balance the budget you either cut services or you raise revenue,” said Foster, adding that the corporate tax rate was always supposed to increase but the timeline has been pushed ahead by a year.

The budget calls for Ministry of Health funding to climb at an annual average of 2.6 per cent, but Olsen isn’t convinced that’s enough to meet current needs.

“It doesn’t help us much at Vernon Jubilee Hospital because everyone (across the province) wants a piece of the pie,” he said.

Medical Services Plan premiums are going up four per cent in January, 2014.

“We have to have income to go towards health care,” said Foster.

Okanagan orchardists had anticipated government support for replanting trees, marketing fruit overseas and addressing health and safety concerns.

“We are disappointed,” said Jeet Dukhia, B.C. Fruit Growers Association president.

“I am going to have a meeting with the agriculture minister and see if there is something on the side for us.”

The proposed budget provides an additional $4 million over three years for increased oversight of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

There is also $20 million over three years for carbon tax relief to help offset carbon tax costs for commercial greenhouse vegetable and flower growers in B.C.



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