Dear Minister De Jong,
Thank you for your voicemail message expressing your regret that I was not home to share with you my priorities for a balanced budget. Perhaps it was a good thing that I was not available for your call because I have a feeling you don’t really want to hear what I have to say about your government’s fiscal management record.
Firstly, I don’t think we could even agree about the topic of our conversation since I see a balanced budget as an oxymoron, like fresh-frozen or pretty-ugly. A budget is a forecast, not a fixed entity. It’s a projection that is at best an estimation of what spending will be.
Remember when you budgeted $63 million for fighting forest fires in 2015 but ended up spending $198 million instead? Didn’t that “unbalance” your budget? I noticed the “unbalanced budget” did not end the world as we know it, for some reason.
Secondly, for a political party that continually boasts about its fiscal management, you have a really shoddy record when it comes to taking care of our public purse. How could good fiscal managers have ballooned the debt by 45%? What did the citizens of BC get for the extra $20 billion that’s been added to the debt since 2011?
I know what corporations have received: tax cuts that they don’t need because they can already defer the payment of their taxes, hide their money in tax havens, and use tax loopholes to avoid paying taxes altogether. So they don’t really need your help, do they?
Come to think of it, I actually do know what the citizens of BC got for the tax cuts: a shift to hidden taxes with increases in BC Hydro, ICBC and MSP rates, and more tolls to pay for crossing bridges on the way to work.
We also got longer waits for ambulances. We were turned away from medical clinics. We had to find money to spend on tutors for our children who were not getting learning support in overcrowded classrooms, courtesy of your gutting of public education funding.
Would a good fiscal manager have spent money on lawyers for a 15-year fight over teachers’ constitutional rights, a fight that your government knew it would not win?
There are many examples that clearly show your government’s fiscal fumbling but I think the most perfect example of this is the recent car windshield repair issue.
When your party took power in 2001 you scrapped the NDP policy that ensured that ICBC would pay for windshields to be repaired. Your BC Liberal government only wanted to pay for windshield replacements. And now, 15 years later, you discover that your policy actually cost more money than the NDP policy did.
I suspect that if we took a close look at the budgets of all BC government ministries, we would find multiple examples of the “windshields” that could have been “repaired” for a fraction of the cost of “replacement”.
Take the Ministry of Children and Family Development, for example. I’m sure a forensic audit of the ministry would reveal a lot of cracks that, had they been repaired, as Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond suggested in 92 reports over 10 years, the kind of calamities that no child should ever have to endure, could have been prevented.
But, the top priority in Minister Stephanie Cadieux’s 2015 mandate letter is to balance her budget.
When 120 children die while in government care and more than 740 receive critical injuries, I hope you can understand why what you see as a balanced budget, I see as a death sentence.
The moment you can explain how a balanced budget can prevent another Paige dying on the streets, then I would love to have a conversation with you about budgets and priorities.