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Policy Note

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Policy Note delivers timely, progressive commentary on issues that affect British Columbians, including the economy, poverty, inequality, climate change, provincial budgets, taxes, public services, employment and much more. Contributors include staff and research associates from the B.C. Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The views expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the CCPA. Visit the CCPA's Policy Note blog at www.PolicyNote.ca.

B.C.'s social infrastructure house of cards

| February 26, 2013
Photo: Esther Gibbons/Flickr

In her report on B.C.'s 2013 budget CCPA-BC economist Iglika Ivanova concluded that the province's financial statement focused on balancing the budget at the expense of British Columbians' present and future wellbeing. The following are a few examples of this.

Last Tuesday's budget continues a 12-year record of systematically undermining the province's social infrastructure.

-  Block funding for school districts was frozen for the next three years despite the fact that enrolment has started to rise again. Inflation and other costs imposed on school boards will mean a hit this year of $134 million in school funding cuts. 

-  For the second year post-secondary education funding is actually cut. Student fees have been rising by 5.4 per cent annually -- the fastest rising single source of revenue for the provincial government.

-  In four years the provinces spending on education in B.C. has fallen from 5.6 per cent of the provinces gross domestic product to 5.1 per cent. And this year's budget expects that number to keep falling. B.C.'s funding for education is the second lowest in Canada.

-  The Budget says that spending on B.C.'s Medical Services Plan which pays for 10,000 family physicians and specialists will rise go up by only 1.1 per cent this year. That is a third less than the rate of expected inflation. Again, B.C.'s health-care funding is the second lowest in Canada.

-  The budget slashes spending on adults with developmental disabilities. In two years time spending on adults with fetal alcohol disability of autism will be cut in half. Community Living BC Executive Director said, "We know that all the other costs of providing service are going up, why would the cost per individual client go down?"

-  B.C.'s Children's' Watchdog, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond called the budget harsh pointing out that BC has Canada's highest poverty rate. "If you cared about kids that are vulnerable, you would do the right thing, and this budget fails to do that right thing yet again," she said.

Maybe we have a balanced budget, but if we do it comes at the price of reckless and continuous undermining of education and social supports in B.C. This doesn't even mention cuts in areas like the environment and forestry.

It is like someone standing on the front porch of a house with a leaky roof, broken windows and a furnace that doesn't work bragging about how much money they have saved on maintenance. Surely we are at the breaking point. How long until the house collapses?

Photo: Esther Gibbons/Flickr

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