NEWS

Reality Check | How realistic are spending plans?

05/07/2013 01:59 EDT | Updated 07/07/2013 05:12 EDT
With the NDP stressing the Liberals are the big spenders, and the Liberals accusing the NDP of preparing for a spending spree, the CBC's Reality Check team set out to find the truth.

Taking aim at NDP spending plans is a key part of the B.C. Liberal Party's election campaign strategy.

"If there is a commitment in this document to balance the budget, I stand to be corrected. I didn't find it," said Mike de Jong, the Liberal candidate in Abbotsford-West, referring to the NDP's election platform.

"What I find is a litany of spending promises that will condemn B.C. taxpayers to higher taxes, ongoing deficits in perpetuity, and never once a positive reference to the need to balance the province's budget."

Liberal Leader Christy Clark repeatedly drives home the point about NDP over-spending, but NDP Leader Adrian Dix has tried to turn the tables.

"I think it's extraordinary that the premier that increased the rate of government spending the last couple of years is lecturing anyone on this question," Dix said.

When you strip away the rhetoric, both are technically correct.

The NDP plan calls for more taxation and more spending than the Liberal plan. And the rate of Liberal spending increases in the last two years was slightly higher than three years ago.

But, in order to come up with a projected balanced budget, the Liberals say they will increase spending by just 0.8 per cent this coming year — compared to an average of three per cent during deficit budgets since 2009 and about 5.5 per cent the four years before that.

It wouldn't quite be the cost-cutting enacted by former Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell's first years in power, but times would be tight.

The Liberals are reducing budgets in social services and natural resources, and plan to curb spending in many other ministries.

The NDP, for its part, says there is an actual deficit of $2 billion over three years — $0.5 billion in asset sales, and about $1.5 billion because the NDP doesn't believe the Liberals can restrict spending to 0.8 per cent, even though the Liberals have detailed where the money will come from in the budget.

Where there are questions about the NDP plan is in the category of asset sales — the NDP doesn't include asset sales in its spending plans, but it might sell BC Place, the new trade and convention centre, and other assets the Liberals are also planning to sell.

Because much of the Liberal asset sale plan is a secret, the NDP says it would need to review those, if elected.

To sum up, the Liberals are planning their most restrictive spending increase in a decade. It's just a plan, but the party has indicated where it plans to save money to balance the budget.

The NDP's position is that the Liberals won't meet their target — that it's just not realistic — so New Democrats shouldn't be blamed for running a deficit.

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