The budget brought down by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon this week was a disappointing document that shows a government that has run out of gas, says Scott Fraser.
The Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA said the budget offers nothing new to British Columbians and leaves seniors and many other British Columbians out in the cold.
“We have the highest income gap in the country and the highest poverty rate in the country and that will continue,” Fraser said. “Meanwhile, Medical Services Plan premiums are going up and there are Hydro rate increases, ferry increases … it all adds up.”
In particular, Fraser was critical of the lack of any initiatives to help train students for the future.
“In the last decade we have become the worst place in Canada to be a student, with the highest student debt, the highest increase in tuition fees and the highest interest on student loans in the country,” he said. “We are also the only jurisdiction that canceled all needs-based grants for students who want to get ahead but can’t afford to. They gutted the apprenticeship program for trades training when it has been clearly identified that B.C. is facing a looming skills shortage.”
Noting the government plans to spend $15 million this year for TV ads to publicize their jobs plan, Fraser said this money would have been better spent supporting students.
“They are not going to get the training, so they are not going to get the jobs,” he said.
Fraser said he wants to see the non-refundable student grant program reinstated and paid for by rolling back a couple of the tax breaks given to big banks.
“The banks will be the beneficiaries of that because we will have a stronger economy with more people trained,” he said. “That’s a true investment the bankers will understand, I’m sure.”
Fraser agreed with the need to be fiscally prudent in these uncertain times, but argued the Liberals have a long way to go to get to that point.
“These guys have not been fiscally prudent,” he said. This is the worst government for managing the economy. They’ve put nothing towards managing our resources, which should be a priority. Whether it is our forests or our water, to not manage those is a betrayal of future generations. It’s akin to selling off land to try to make an election promise to balance the budget. You don’t sell off your assets to pay off the debt unless you’re desperate and this government is stripping the cupboards bare. It’s as desperate as it gets.”