Eric Foster’s March 10 MLA Report can’t be allowed to pass without comment.
Mr. Foster begins his report by crowing over MSP reductions, reporting that, “this year’s budget starts the process, cutting premiums by 50 per cent.” He goes on to suggest that this will allow, “British Columbians to keep $953 million more of their hard-earned money.” Interestingly, he fails to mention a number of important details.
First off, while the text of his report makes it sound like we will benefit immediately from the government’s largesse, British Columbians will have to wait nearly a year to see a change in their MSP rate. In fact, the fees won’t change until January 2018.
Second, while a 50 per cent drop is significant, this change will merely return the rate to where it was when the B.C. Liberals came to power in 2001.
This means that by the time it is reduced, British Columbians will have been dinged by an “unprogressive” and “unfair” tax (words Christy Clark used to describe the MSP) for 17 years.
Finally, the fact is that many British Columbians don’t pay their own MSP fees. Their employers pay it for them. This means that a significant portion of this tax relief will actually go to large businesses and government employers.
If the government wants to further support big business, fair enough, but surely it is important to accurately represent the effects of your decisions when you are giving an accountability report to your constituents.
The last point that must be made refers to Mr. Foster’s claim that, “fiscal discipline makes it possible to care for the ones we love.”
Fiscal discipline, eh?
When the B.C. Liberals first came to power in 2001, one of the first things they did was to make massive cuts and begin an era of frozen budgets and underfunding.
Among other cuts in their first four years, they cut the Ministry of Human Resources by up to 30 per cent and the Ministry of Children and Family Development by 23 per cent (www.caledoninst.org/PDF/553820231.pdf).
They also illegally eliminated freely negotiated contract provisions from teachers’ contracts, resulting in annual cuts of more than $300 million from education budgets, money that the Supreme Court of Canada now says should have gone to educate our province’s students.
It seems more than a little self-serving to return money to the “ones we love” now, in the run up to an election, when, for the last 16 years, the B.C. Liberals have amassed those savings by forcing millions of children, students, people on disabilities and a whole host of others to go without.
This is especially galling when, over the same time period, they introduced rounds of tax cuts that overwhelmingly favoured the richest of this province at the expense of the rest of us (thetyee.ca/Opinion/2017/02/17/BC-Tax-Giveaway-to-the-Rich/).
Barry Dorval, NDP candidate, Vernon-Monashee