• Our mainstream media is dutifully extolling BC’s achievement of a balanced budget. Our liberal government, so we are told, has earned bragging rights for tightly controlling spending and preventing tax increases. However, even a cursory look at this budget reveals a different picture. To begin with, on the income side, there are millions of dollars worth of so-called “surplus properties” which are being sold. In other words, a lot of publicly owned land is privatized to help balance this budget. This is the same trick that school boards are using to balance their books: selling “surplus schools” because the funding from the province is inadequate. And it is the same trick the Campbell government used to balance the budget by selling BCRail a few years ago. There is nothing to celebrate about that. If I sell a bedroom in my home to get the income to cover my expenses, should I celebrate balancing my budget?
Secondly, the province is balancing its budget by siphoning away hundreds of millions of dollars from BC Hydro – money that BC Hydro does not have and must borrow. In fact, this is largely the cause of the dramatic increase in our hydro rates. ICBC is also increasing rates steadily so the province can collect millions of dollars every year. MSP premiums are up and ferry rates have gone through the roof; instead of tax increases, we have rapidly increasing user fees.
Finally, entire government departments are cut back so they can no longer do the job they are supposed to do. A good example is the Mount Polly mine disaster. This tragedy, the largest environmental disaster in BC history, was the result of cutting back on safety inspections and the transfer of inspections away from independent ministry officials to contractors hired by the mining company. It was a clear conflict of interest. This might indeed be a way to get a balanced provincial budget, but at what cost?
These important facts are almost completely overlooked by our cheerleading mainstream media as it repeats ad nauseam: “balanced budget, balanced budget, the only province in Canada.”
Reimar Kroecher is a retired economist who taught economics at Langara College for 33 years. He holds degrees in economics from UBC and UCLA.