(Victoria) The BC government missed an opportunity to address British Columbians’ growing economy insecurity in a weak job market with the 2014 budget, says Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives economist Iglika Ivanova.
“It seems that the BC government is taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to jobs and social development,” says Ivanova, who took part in the budget lockup. “In the fifth year of a slow, jobless recovery, the government should be more focused on the serious problems facing BC than on being able say they balanced the budget.”
“The government is betting too much on the potential of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) and mining industries to bring jobs and growth to the province; none of the benefits are expected in the next three years.”
“Too many BC families are struggling with affordability challenges today, and this budget offers very little for them. We should have seen an investment in a more diverse and sustainable economy, as well as more support for post-secondary education, poverty reduction, and other key programs.”
BC has fewer permanent jobs today than we did before the recession. The government itself projects an increase in unemployment to 6.8 per cent, which will last until 2018 at least.
This while spending on education is increasing at less than 1% annually for the next three years, lower than estimated inflation.
British Columbia has also had the highest poverty rate of any of the provinces for the last ten years, but the 2014 budget takes few measures to address this—only a slight increase in funding for income assistance, but it’s unclear whether welfare rates will go up. BC remains one of only two provinces without a comprehensive poverty reduction plan.
Meanwhile, Medical Service Plan (MSP) premiums are increasing (for the sixth consecutive year), putting a greater fiscal burden on low-income individuals and families in particular.
As Ivanova argues, with a low debt-to-GDP ratio and good credit rating, now is the time for the government to be investing more, not less.
For more information or interviews with Iglika Ivanova contact Lindsey Bertrand at 778-238-7710 or [email protected].
For interviews with Seth Klein in Vancouver, contact Terra Poirier at 604-801-5121 x229 or [email protected].