We all remember in 2001, when the BC Liberals came to power, how they promised to outlaw deficits. But despite balanced budget legislation, B.C. 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 B.C. will have a budget deficit of $3.1 billion. B.C.’s overall debt has risen in the BC Liberal decade from $33.8 billion in 2001 to $53.4 billion now. The BC Liberals have also signed off on $80.2 billion in other contractual obligations.
These range from ridiculously inflated IPP energy purchase agreements to a variety of Public-Private Partnerships (P3) used on infrastructure projects.
P3s are attractive to governments because they make it hard for the public to see how public money is being spent.
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. They say this tax favoritism will lead to economic growth; large corporations will reinvest the tax savings into job creation. But that has not proven to be true. Economic growth in the 1990s averaged three per cent. Growth in B.C.’s economy during the BC Liberal decade was only 2.4 per cent.
So tax cuts have not resulted in greater growth — only led to higher debt, higher fees for MSP, ICBC and tuition, and cuts to services.
In the last 10 years, the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. The richest 10 per cent in B.C. earn more money than the bottom 50 per cent. 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. We can choose a government that will work for social justice, strengthen our democratic institutions and look after our most valuable asset, our public lands.
Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for the Columbia River – Revelstoke riding.