Budget 2015 surplus (another) slap in the face to ferry dependent communities

Editorial

Wednesday, February 25 2015

Michael de Jong, BC’s Minister of Finance, threw down the provincial budget this past Tuesday afternoon, claiming to have set up a historical third balanced budget in a row for British Columbia. Not only is the budget balanced, but there is a projected surplus of $879 million.

For the Liberal supporters, this was touted as showing the Liberals as being a fiscally responsible government.

For anyone involved or interested in education, health care, or living in the ferry-dependent communities, we are left to ask, “Why in all of the names that are holy is there a surplus?”

For almost three years we’ve been told that we had to pull up our socks and watch “our” ferry system slashed to pieces over and over again, while fares continued to rise.

Now we see those in power bragging about having millions of dollars in surplus. An $879 million surplus the province should be able to find $19 million to avoid cutbacks to the minor routes.

Supposedly those dollars, if they are left at the end of the year, will be used to pay down the provincial debt. If anyone believes there will be money left at the end of this fiscal year, the Sounder has a bridge to Sechelt for sale.

Minister de Jong said that surplus is there because the province wants to be responsible and ensure they have some padding to be able to deal with unforeseen economic circumstances.

Where was that kind of fiscal prudence when the Discovery Route was cut last year, decimating the tourism industry of BC’s coast for years to come? Operators up and down the Discovery Coast would certainly call those cutbacks as being unforeseen economic circumstances.

This budget is a demonstration of the Liberals’ ability to run a card game with the money of British Columbians. 

Hiding debt and capital costs in Crown-owned private corporations like BC Ferries and BC Hydro only fools the fools.

Add to that, de Jong made statements about how the LNG industry is taking off slower than expected, so the government is going to start investing in an International Maritime Centre in Vancouver, as well as expanding the Lower Mainland’s involvement in the aerospace industry. And de Jong actually said, “Balancing the budget for a multi-million enterprise is a huge challenge.”

Minister de Jong, the Government of BC is not an “enterprise,” it is not a corporation. In times of economic hardship we look to the government to help the low and middle income families survive - the same people for whom this budget does virtually nothing, while boosting the benefits of the wealthy.

A surplus for whom then Minister de Jong?