Taxpayers federation gives finance minister failing grade

As the B.C. government presents its latest budget and awaits a new premier to set the direction of government, there are two very divergent views of the direction the province’s finances are headed.

As the B.C. government presents its latest budget and awaits a new premier to set the direction of government, there are two very divergent views of the direction the province’s finances are headed.

Gregory Thomas, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, points to another operating deficit, with $440 million in spending overruns, much of it in health care.

“Spending grew 4.3 per cent year over year. Spending grew faster than the economy. Spending grew faster than the inflation rate. Spending grew faster than the population,” said Thomas. “The finance minister’s No. 1 job is to control spending, so I’d have to say Hansen flunked this year on that basis.”

Judy D’Arcy, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees Union, said there is a lot of “fear mongering” about health care spending, but in fact B.C.’s expenditures as a share of the economy have remained stable over 10 years.

“If you talk about a status quo budget in health care, what that means is families are paying more for Medical Services Plan premiums out of their own pockets,” said D’Arcy.

“It means health care workers continue to be stretched to the limit. And for seniors, because of these new residential care fee hikes, seniors are paying more out of their own pocket for their own care in the last year of their lives.”