THIS PAST week’s provincial budget continues a Liberal policy of unequal taxation, says Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin.
Increases in the cost of everything from medical care premiums to staying at provincial campgrounds, while called fees, are actually taxes, he said.
And because fees are assessed regardless of income, people who earn less are more affected than high income earners, Austin continued. “It’s what I would call a flat tax. It’s a very regressive way of raising taxes,” said Austin.
He noted that this January’s six per cent jump in medical services plan premium rates will be followed by one next year of four per cent.
By 2012, medical premiums will have risen by 24 per cent since 2009.
Austin also doubted the province would be able to keep to its target of a $969 million deficit for a budget of $43.87 billion beginning April 1. He noted that previous provincial Liberal budget claims, most notably in 2009 when the government claimed the deficit would be no more than $495 million, quickly turned out to be wrong.
Austin, the NDP critic for education, focussed on the lack of increases for the schools, saying they are going to be hard pressed to cope with inflation. “There are going to be huge cuts in education as a result,” he said.
The NDP MLA did acknowledge the province is spending $165 million on special needs students, but said that’s over three years with $30 million the first year, $60 million in the second year and $75 million in the third year.
“It’s new money, that’s true. But you need to realize the province took out $275 million over the last 10 years from the system – since 2002. And that put so much stress on the system,” said Austin.
As it is, Austin said, $7 million from the $30 million for this year is going to pay the wages of teaching assistants who have been doing unpaid work.
“There’s going to be conflict from all over the province as to how this money will be allocated,” Austin said.
He’s also questioning the ability of the government to sell property and other assets in hopes of raising $700 million and the wisdom in doing so.
“Once you sell the family silver it’s gone,” said Austin.