It’s being billed as a “boring” provincial budget, but it’s still drawing praise and criticism from the Tri-Cities politicians who sit in the legislature.
Highlights from the budget include a forecast surplus for the next three years and $184 million in 2014-15, $2.5 billion more in health-care spending over the next three years, and a four-per-cent raise in Medical Services Plan premiums.
NDP finance critic and Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth panned the budget, suggesting the average family will end up paying $900 more out of pocket over the next three years for increases to hydro, ICBC and ferry rates.
“It’s a budget that will see families in the Tri-Cities pay more and receive less in terms of service,” he told the Tri-Cities NOW.
While the budget is balanced, he pointed out the province’s debt is forecast to rise another $4 billion over the next three years, blasting Premier Christy Clark on her promise for a debt-free B.C.
Farnworth also noted the province’s estimates that unemployment would continue to rise this year and next year, adding he would like to see a greater focus on skills and training.
“It shows a complete failure of the premier’s so-called jobs plan,” he said.
But Port Moody-Coquitlam Liberal MLA Linda Reimer said the budget will make it easier for families, noting a $1,200 RESP contribution for children born after Jan. 1, 2007, and a $650 annual child tax credit.
She also argued the budget will lead to more jobs and investment in the province.
“Things are looking very good, but we have to keep controlling our spending,” she said, adding she believes spending will be tight for the next couple of years.
Reimer said her government intends to balance the budget next year.
Sticking with the balanced-budget theme, the MLA noted B.C. is one of only two provinces to do so, suggesting her government was given a mandate by voters to be strong on the economy.
“We always have to keep in mind taxpayer dollars, and this budget absolutely is good fiscal management and good management of taxpayer dollars,” Reimer said.
Other aspects of the budget include increasing the threshold for the First Time Homebuyers’ Program to $475,000 from $425,000, and a 32-cent increase to the price of a pack of cigarettes.
© Tri-Cities Now