(Vancouver) The provincial government has underestimated its revenues by $7.9 billion over the past four years and continues to low-ball projections. The government’s current “three-year fiscal plan” projects surpluses of just over $1 billion in the next two years. But more realistic estimates, using the Ministry of Finance’s own economic growth forecasts, show that the province can expect surpluses of $2.8 billion in 2006/07 and $3.9 billion in 2007/08.
“The provincial government must stop low-balling revenues so that we can have an honest debate about our priorities,” says Seth Klein, BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “The economy is strong, but not all British Columbians are benefiting and many people have been hurt by the government’s cuts to public services. Many of those left behind are women, especially women with children.”
“The harmful effects of spending cuts on women and children must be addressed, and we have the money to do it,” says Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Chair of Simon Fraser University’s Department of Women’s Studies a CCPA research associate. “This is why we have made women’s equality the focus of our annual BC Solutions Budget.”
“If the government is honest about the size of the surplus over the coming three years, we could undo the damage from spending cuts, improve our quality of life and enhance equality for women,” says Cohen.
Among the recommended investments in the BC Solutions Budget 2006:
- Fully implement a publicly-funded, non-profit early learning and child care program by 2008/09;
- Address the crisis at the Ministry of Children and Families by increasing the Ministry’s budget by 30%. Among other things, this would allow for the re-establishment of an independent Child and Youth Advocate’s Office;
- Restore a range of low-cost but vital programs whose elimination was especially hard on women. These include restoring funding for women’s centres, legal aid, victims’ assistance and sexual assault programs. It also includes re-establishing the BC Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Women’s Equality;
- Implement an anti-poverty strategy, to address hardship that is growing in spite of the province’s economic performance. This includes raising welfare rates by 50% by 2008/09, creating 2,000 new units of social housing per year and increasing employment supports such as access to training and education;
- Invest an additional $500 million a year for three years in K-12 and post-secondary education;
- Address the Interior forest crisis by allocating $120 million per year to a pine beetle re-forestation and silvicutlure action plan; and
- Increase health spending by 5% per year to fund public solutions for wait list reductions, more long-term care spaces and system-wide reforms.
“We can do all of this simply by using surplus revenues over the next three years. These investments would provide a much greater value to all British Columbians than tax cuts or debt reduction,” says Klein.
The BC Solutions Budget 2006: Budgeting for Women’s Equality is available at www.policyalternatives.ca. To arrange an interview call Shannon Daub at 604-801-5121 x226.