With an election just a few months away, it's no surprise opposing local MLAs have a different take on the provincial budget.
On Tuesday, the finance minister tabled a balanced budget, but the opposition NDP wasted no time in challenging the numbers.
"The clear message is the Liberal budget is not a balanced budget, it is a deficit budget in hiding," said Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP MLA Joe Trasolini. The MLA has taken issue with some of the projections in the budget, including the selling of provincial assets worth hundreds of millions, and a drop in the annual increase in the healthcare budget from five to six per cent to less than three per cent.
Trasolini suggested the government is overestimating revenues and voters won't buy it when they head to the polls.
"This is a budget that will never see the light of day," he said. But Trasolini's party is facing its own tough questions, particularly what an NDP budget would look like and whether it would run a deficit.
He said his party is still analyzing the numbers before releasing its own budget, but noted the NDP believes in a balanced-budget approach over an economic cycle.
Some of the details in the provincial budget include a forecast surplus of $197 million for this year, an increase in income taxes on individuals earning more than $150,000, a one-per-cent corporate income tax increase and a $2 tax increase on a carton of cigarettes.
Coquitlam-Burke Mountain Liberal MLA Doug Horne defended the budget, calling it balanced "in every sense of the word."
He also criticized the notion the government was trying to balance the budget by selling $625 million in assets, noting the properties aren't long-term assets held by the government.
In one case, Horne noted one of the properties was earmarked for a new hospital in Surrey, but the decision was made to just expand the current hospital, freeing up the unused land for sale.
"There's really not a lot of substance to the argument. It's not as if we've taken a whole bunch of historical assets of the province of British Columbia and said we're going to put them up for sale to balance the budget," he told The NOW.
Horne also noted the budget includes conservative estimates on the prices of natural gas and $200 million-plus in contingencies in each of the next three years to guard against revenue volatility.
"It's important to have fiscal discipline and that's what we've tried to do," he said, adding he's comfortable taking the budget to the people in the upcoming election.
Interestingly, both local MLAs agree parts of the budget appear to be right out of the NDP playbook, like the increase in corporate taxes and taxes on high-income earners. Horne suggested the budget has "taken the wind" out of the NDP's sails, but Trasolini argued it validates what his party has been touting for the last year.
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