Provincial budget draws mixed reviews in North Okanagan

B.C.’s new financial plan is drawing mixed reaction across the North Okanagan.

B.C.’s new financial plan is drawing mixed reaction across the North Okanagan.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon presented his 2012 budget in the Legislature Tuesday.

“They put $15 million into advertising their jobs plan but they ignored post-secondary and training needs,” said Carole Gordon, North Okanagan Labour Council president.

“They are doing nothing to create the skilled jobs they’re advertising for.”

As part of the budget, first-time buyers will be eligible for up to $10,000 for a new residence.

“That’s good for the building trades but it doesn’t help the average family which traditionally purchases existing housing,” said Robinson.

Victoria’s goal is a $154 million surplus in 2013/14 and $250 million in 2014/15. To get there, spending growth will be limited to two per cent.

“It’s a necessary approach this time around,” said Darren Robinson, Enderby Chamber of Commerce executive director, who questions, though, how tighter spending will stimulate the economy.

For Robinson, businesses will see some direct benefits from the budget.

“Their (government) approach isn’t an increase in taxes,” he said.

The small business income tax will remain at the current 2.5 per cent.

Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce officials point to a level of uncertainty over the budget.

“While we generally support the direction of the budget, it relies on assumptions of economic growth which may or may not come to pass,” said George Duffy, general manager.

“The world economy is being driven on the one hand by demand from Asia, while dampened by uncertainty in European debt financing.

The B.C. Fruit Growers Association is upset there’s no new cash for the Ministry of Agriculture.

“In B.C. we have had four years of negative net farm income, for all of agriculture,” said Jeet Dukhia, BCFGA vice-president.

“The lack of agriculture programs is preventing our sector from growing and creating jobs.”

Dukhia says B.C. could trigger an additional $88 million in federal funds by bringing its contribution up to the national average.

“B.C. is leaving federal funding on the table to the detriment of  local farmers.”

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, defends the government’s financial plan.

“It’s a conservative budget but it addresses health care, social services and education,” he said.

“We’re not blowing the bank and going into unnecessary debt.”

Falcon forecasts there will be a balanced budget  just before the May 2013 election, but Foster insists this isn’t the Liberals’ attempt to hold on to power.

“We are striving to be a place where people want to invest,” he said.

Mark Olsen, Vernon-Monashee NDP candidate, believes the government’s priorities are wrong.

“They talk about restraint but the premier’s office budget hasn’t been cut and they’re increasing advertising,” he said.

Falcon will speak at a Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday at the Village Green Hotel.