Thursday, March 04, 2010

BC Budget balancing act takes from some sectors and shifts to others

With the province still steeped in an Olympic hangover, Finance Minister Colin Hansen offered up his budgetary deliberations this week, a review of where the province is at now and where it may be heading. Providing indications that they intend to keep a hard grip on spending, slash a number of ministry budgets and will strive for a balanced budget in 2013-14.

The most dramatic indication as to the changing nature of the provinces economy was the apparent decision that the forestry no longer plays any form of dramatic role in the fortunes for the province, the Forests Ministry was perhaps one of the hardest hits in reductions in funding and for potential reductions in employment opportunities.

And while such ministries as Forestry, Energy and Mines deal with that new reality, the government may finally have heard some of the feedback from the public when it comes to such areas of concern as education and health, two areas which saw small increases to their numbers from a year ago.

However, even as the Campbell Government promised to boost funding for such areas as the Arts, sports, school districts and health authorities, the impression of many is that it's far too little of an increase to really provide for much in the way of a long term benefit.

Civil servants will bear a good portion of the cost cutting of the Liberal plans with up to 11 percent of the public service to be reduced, a number that means 3500 positions to be eliminated through retirement, resignation and layoffs before that target is met.

New spending will be directed towards health and education.

School Districts received a much desired return of past monies as the Government reversed its path and restored $110 million in annual grants used to repair school buildings. With all day kindergarten on the way in the fall, the Liberals added $112 million in additional education funding, destined to boost current levels dedicated towards salary increases and the launch of the kindergarten program.

Th BC Teachers federation however maintains that even with the increase in funding, the amount of the increase won't come close to reducing the plans for layoffs and school closures.

The Health sector can look forward to an additional 760 million dollars this year to be aimed towards direct health care services, though MSP premiums will see a slight increase in 2011. The Premier and Finance Minister pointing out to all who will listen that Health care in BC takes up about 42 percent of the provincials budgetary room.

Towards that massive percentage, the government indicated that money from the soon to be implemented HST will be directed towards health care, perhaps a move to try and deflect the growing anger in the province over the tax by allocating it in the one spot most identified in the province as necessary to the population.

It was a bit of financial show and tell that Michael Smyth in the Province was quick to explore this week finding the Liberals a tad disingenuous in their bid to make the HST more palatable to the masses.

The Justice system as well received a boost from the budget, with the Court system gaining access to an additional 30 million dollars over three years, while funding for RCMP policing requirements across the province were allotted another 39 million over the next three years.

Part of the financing for the provinces budgetary needs will come from a kind of cash grab out of two high profile institutions in the province.

The Government intends to recoup some $778 million over three years from the capital reserves of ICBC, while at the same time taking an additional $254 million from BC Hydro, a controversial kind of financial shell game that is starting to raise eyebrows across the province.

The give and the take offered up by Finance Minister Colin Hansen is to hold the fiscal line while the province works its way through recession and back into a period of stability and growth anticipated a few years down the line.

With a few days to digest the machinations of government fiscal policy, the observations have started to pop up outlining the plans and divining for us whether it's a feasible blue print for growth in the years to come.

For the Premier and his government, the cheering masses have moved on, the party atmosphere once infective in the streets doused by the sudden reality that the big party has come to an end.

Those cheers perhaps the last that Campbell and his Liberals hear for the foreseeable future, and alas they weren't even directed at them

BC Government Budget 2010 page

Vancouver Sun-- B.C. Liberals keep tight lid on spending, slash several ministries in $40.6-billion budget
Vancouver Sun-- A tough time if you need government services
Vancouver Sun-- Health spending gets $2B increase to 2013
Vancouver Sun-- Fresh money for art, sports
Vancouver Sun-- Property tax deferral details released
Vancouver Sun-- $58M in funding planned for infrastructure projects
Vancouver Sun-- Bland budget, tough times
Vancouver Sun-- Lay-off notices coming for civil servants
Vancouver Sun-- B.C. school districts get funding boost
Vancouver Sun-- Budget has absurd new sales pitch for HST
Globe and Mail-- HST and wage freezes to pay for health care
Globe and Mail-- Gimmicks and tricks can't fix the deficit
Globe and Mail-- Feeling glow of Olympics, B.C. rolls out rosy budget
Vancouver Province-- B.C. government must not be taxing by stealth
Vancouver Province-- B.C. budget includes no wage hikes
Vancouver Province-- Nurses, gov't at odds over health dollars
Vancouver Province-- B.C. poised to perform better
Vancouver Province-- Highlights of the 2010 B.C. provincial budget
Vancouver Province-- NDP slam Liberals for calling HST a health tax
The Tyee-- In Tight Times, Campbell Gov't Chooses to Help Big Banks
The Tyee-- 'Hangover Budget' Pleases Few
The Tyee-- BC budget includes record $2.8 billion deficit, cuts, optimism
The Tyee-- CCPA: '2010 BC Budget is underwhelming'
The Tyee-- Wakey, Wakey Taxpayer!

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