British Columbia's government has taken every opportunity to claim credit for the apparent solid economic performance in the last couple years, but the economic outlook is considerably more muted going forward as the province's General Election 41 nears on May 9th. And the BC Budget tabled on February 21st carried on the illusion touting the 5th straight balanced budget. Where is the surplus going?
More than half of British Columbians surveyed in a recent poll reported they were living paycheque to paycheque. Household debt levels are at record highs. Over 100,000 citizens needed the help of food banks in 2016, up 3.4% from 2015. Child poverty remains stubbornly high and BC is the only province without a real poverty reduction plan. Public education is underfunded and is only seeing an increase due to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision against past measures. Instead of tackling poverty and investing in public education, the BC government used $1 billion of this fiscal year's surplus to pay down the public debt faster and another $400 million for the so-called Prosperity Fund that was supposed to be funded by revenues from LNG, which look likely to never happen.
Iglika Ivanova is a Senior Economist and the Public Interest Researcher for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - BC Office. Her work investigates issues and trends in health care, education and social programs, and examines the impact of public services on quality of life. She also looks into issues of government finance, taxation and privatization and how they relate to the accessiblilty and quality of public services. Iglika joins us to discuss BC's economic realiity, why the annual bi-partisan budget consultation continues to be ignored at peril to the future and to explain the shift from fairness to regression in taxation over the current government's tenure.