VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb 21, 2017) - After 16 years of policies that benefit the wealthy and well-connected while making life harder for low-and middle-income British Columbians, the BC Liberals' final budget before the May election makes only minor cosmetic changes and does very little to share the province's economic prosperity, CUPE BC President Paul Faoro said today.
"The government is trumpeting a cut to the MSP tax, but it won't take effect until January, 2018, well after the provincial election in May. After 16 years of BC Liberal mismanagement and broken promises-and double-digit increases to the tax-British Columbians should be skeptical that the Liberals will keep this commitment," said Faoro. "It's only because of the growing awareness that B.C. is the only province to charge citizens a tax for health care that the Liberals are making vague promises to phase this tax out. And even if they actually implement the changes, the MSP tax is still regressive-a couple with a joint income of $80,000 will pay the same rate as an individual who earns a million dollars a year.
"Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, this budget represents a massive missed opportunity. The BC Liberals are doing the absolute bare minimum necessary to claim they're taking action on issues that matter to British Columbians, but in almost every instance that 'action' is more spin than reality."
Measures to benefit the wealthy-such as a dividend tax credit for shareholders-take effect almost immediately, but the reductions to the MSP tax won't take effect until 2018, a clear signal of the government's real priorities. And private schools again see a bigger percentage budget increase than public schools. Remarkably, this year's budget makes no mention of the more than 900 British Columbians who died of fentanyl-related overdoses last year.
"The BC Liberals are busy patting themselves on the back for additional funding for education, but they were ordered to do so by the Supreme Court of Canada after a lengthy court battle caused by then-Education Minister Christy Clark's cuts that began in 2002," said Faoro. "But there are more questions than answers when it comes to education funding, particularly when it comes to support staff. The budget has no information on how this will impact the 27,000 CUPE members who work in the education system. We will be seeking answers from the government and we'll continue to demand that they provide proper, sustainable funding for all facets of the education system.
"Finally, for a government that has put almost all our economic eggs in the LNG basket, there's not a single mention in this year's budget speech, reflecting the failure of Christy Clark's scheme," said Faoro.
CUPE BC represents more than 85,000 workers delivering important public services in almost every community in B.C.