As the Legislative Assembly adjourns for another year, I'm left reflecting on the many promises left unfulfilled now that John Horgan has spent nearly every last penny of taxpayer money. Many around the province are not finding life more affordable, struggling with rising ICBC rates, gas prices that are amongst the highest in North America, and little relief in sight.
The cracks are starting to show for the NDP government as continuous fiscal updates portray a bleak future for British Columbia’s budget. After inheriting a billion-dollar surplus from the BC Liberals, the NDP is teetering on the edge of a fiscal deficit after just two years.
Top of mind for many in my riding is the ongoing forestry crisis that has hit communities around the province leaving mills indefinitely closed and people out of work. For months, the BC Liberals have been demanding action from a government missing in action. When Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson made his $69 million announcement to aid forestry workers in September, little did we know that instead of new money for workers, it was simply taking away money from other key projects.
The $25 million annual Rural Dividend Fund was established by our previous government to help over 300 rural communities diversify local economies, many of which are dependent on forestry. But all that has come to a stop because Donaldson raided the fund to cover the cost of his inadequate forestry aid program.
Under a Freedom of Information request, British Columbians found out that according to an email from Donaldson’s top advisor, Tim Renneberg, the Rural Dividend represents “just a slush fund for MLAs to do cheque presentations.” The bad news doesn’t stop there as it seems only 500 workers may be eligible for benefits, leaving an estimated five to ten thousand out-of-work contractors with nothing at all.
Costs are rising, key promises aren’t being fulfilled, and long-standing programs that communities have come to rely on are left gutted by the NDP. All is not merry heading into the holiday season for many struggling British Columbians.
Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River North.