We all remember in 2001, when the BC Liberals came to power, how they promised to outlaw deficits. But despite balanced budget legislation, British Columbia, under the BC Liberals, now has the largest deficit in our province’s history.
We are now about to set a new record: this year BC will have a budget deficit of $3.1 billion.
British Columbia’s overall debt has risen in the BC Liberal decade from $33.8 billion in 2001 to $53.4 billion now. But that stated debt is only part of the problem. The BC Liberals have also signed off on $80.2 billion in other contractual obligations.
These contractual obligations range from ridiculously inflated IPP energy purchase agreements to a variety of Public-Private Partnerships (P3) used on infrastructure projects.
P3’s are attractive to governments because they make it hard for the public to see how public money is being spent, and they allow governments to hid true debt levels.
For those who have experienced the BC Liberals’ cuts to government services, it is hard to imagine how the fiscal challenges can be so serious. But here’s why: while the BC Liberals were cutting funding to classrooms, they were also implementing huge tax cuts, primarily to large corporations and the wealthy.
The BC Liberals say that this tax favoritism will lead to economic growth; that large corporations will reinvest the tax savings into job creation. But that has not proven to be true. Economic growth in the 1990’s averaged 3%, while the growth in BC’s economy during the BC Liberal decade was only 2.4%.
So tax cuts have not resulted in greater growth. Tax cuts have only led to higher debt, higher fees for MSP, ICBC and tuition, and cuts to services.
In the last ten years of BC Liberal rule, the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. The richest 10% in British Columbia earn more money than the bottom 50%.
British Columbians are ready for a change. They are ready for a government that will re-balance the tax structure in our province.
Corporations and the most wealthy need to pay their fair share.
Despite the very serious fiscal constraints we now face, we have every reason to be optimistic in British Columbia. We can choose a government that will work competently for social justice, strengthening our democratic institutions and looking after our most valuable asset, our public lands.
Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for Columbia River – Revelstoke. You can contact him through his website at www.NormMacdonald.ca