Two key events happened both inside the Legislature and outside on the lawn on Budget Day that exemplify the legacy that this NDP government has built for British Columbia and what we can expect in the upcoming year. Unfortunately, not much of it was good news—especially for those of us in rural communities.
The first event was the unveiling of the budget itself. Though Finance Minister Carole James managed to introduce a balanced budget, there was much speculation about whether this government would be forced to disclose a deficit. Their reckless spending, including billions of dollars in additional infrastructure costs by locking non-union contractors out of major projects through Community Benefit Agreements, has eaten away at a $2.7-billion surplus left by the previous government.
This NDP government kept the budget balanced by the skin of their teeth, and only did so by burdening British Columbians with 23 new or increased taxes, including a new tax on streaming services, including Netflix. These new taxes will be costing you, the taxpayer, more than $8 billion more.
The sad irony is that most of these taxes target families. The average household in B.C. is now paying an additional $2,700 in taxes since John Horgan took office going up to near $5,000. Taxes are going up and promises were broken. Waiting for $10-a-day childcare, that has been killed along with the $400 annual renters’ rebate, is just some of the promises made to woo voters.
But what really overshadowed the budget was the event that took place on the front lawn. Dozens of logging trucks and more than a thousand forestry workers and their families rolled into Victoria and demanded action from a government that has been silent about the grievances of the struggling forestry industry and rural communities.
We have seen mill closures across the province, the loss of thousands of jobs, and a strike by Vancouver Island forestry workers that received no assistance from the NDP until it entered its seventh month. Fort St. John’s LP mill is still closed.
What little solutions this government provided came on the backs of these same rural communities when the NDP suspended the Rural Dividend Fund, a grant which provides opportunities to expand rural economies and invest in their communities.
While John Horgan and the NDP continue to steam ahead with a plan to make life more and more unaffordable for British Columbians, the concerns of residents and communities continue to fall on deaf ears.
Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River North.