I’ve had the great honour of being your voice in B.C.’s Legislature since 2013. Whether in government or opposition, my No. 1 job has been taking the your issues from the South Peace to Victoria to ensure they are heard.
As your MLA, I have another key responsibility—my role as the Finance critic for the Official Opposition. Some of you might wonder what exactly this means. Aren’t politicians always criticizing anyway? It’s not like that. It’s my role to lead the Opposition response to the budget, to point out what is missing, and to raise spending plan (or lack of a plan) issues with the government and with the public.
The 2021 B.C. budget is the first delivered since COVID-19 brought challenging times for all of us, and especially those who have lost loved ones, who have been on the frontlines, who have lost their jobs, and for employers struggling to stay afloat. Talking to people across the Peace and across the province, I’ve heard a real desire for a plan that will go beyond the pandemic and map out recovery.
Sadly, no plan was in the Budget, even though the government took two extra months to work on the document. Long-promised items like $10-a-day daycare, support for renters, and new schools were all missing.
What does the budget fail to deliver? There is no jobs plan that aims to grow employment and our provincial prosperity. Employers are desperate for this so they can go beyond mere survival mode and help support community revival. Women and youth have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, yet the budget lacked any measures to address recovery for women and for youth.
The budget is even failing to deliver help and support out when it is needed—now. The budget talks about relief for employers that would arrive 18 months after programs were announced last year.
Shocking too is that $4.25 billion in the budget is left to contingencies…a pot of money that comes with no plan. To put it into context, only the Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Development and Poverty Reduction have budgets larger than that pot of money. The COMBINED budgets of Advanced Education, Agriculture, Energy and Mines, Environment, Forests, Indigenous Relations, Jobs and Economic Recovery, and Mental Health and Addictions.
What are taxpayers getting with this budget? Debt. The government is adding $10,000 in debt for each and every one of us. It may be government debt, but you know who will be paying it off. You. And your children. And your grandchildren.
Folks tell me they’d rather the government just give them the $10,000 than have it spent by Victoria. They don’t trust government. They know they could better invest it for their future. They know they could spend it a lot more wisely to help their family, their communities, and the people around them.
Budgets are supposed to be actions plans. They are supposed to be roadmaps of what will be done and how much will be spent. This budget is a blank cheque, a government taking a whole lot of your money with no hint of a plan to build us back.
Given the road of broken promises that got us here, that is too high a price for the public to pay.
My Constituency Office in Dawson Creek is ready to help anyone with any problems with provincial government services. If you’ve hit a roadblock, the office can make inquiries. You can also share your thoughts and ideas by email at mike.bernier.MLA@leg.bc.ca or through my Facebook page at MikeBernierBC, or by calling my office at (250) 782-3430, or 1 (855) 582-3430.