While the B.C. Liberal party prepares to break out their punch bowl and party hats, I think it's important for everyone to realize what we, the taxpayers, sacrificed to obtain this $1.7 billion surplus. Although Premier Christy Clark would love for you to think that it was her hard work and amazing number-crunching skills, the reality is this surplus comes at our expense, not hers.
We have experienced drastic cuts to public education, health care, senior care, legal aid, social services, mental health and addiction services and more. We have seen rising rates for MSP, ferries, housing, food and gas.
They have closed 24 out of 68 courthouses, 10 jails, 176 schools and 85 per cent of legal aid offices. It's really not hard to see where all the extra money came from.
This surplus in reality is just a clever illusion, nothing more then smoke and mirrors.
Let's say, for example, I run a household and I know it will cost X amount of money to keep this household going. Then I decide to start cutting one child's food portions or an elderly member's medical costs. And while I'm at it, I stop paying anything to maintain the actual house itself. Then at the end of the year I say "Wow, look at all this money I have left over. I've saved us so much," but completely ignore the fact that the house is falling apart. I have hungry children and sick family members.
Instead of celebrating this surplus, we should all be mad as hell. How many times have we heard the excuse "We can't afford that" or the underlying threat of raising taxes when it comes to properly funding basic public services?
We have the second-highest child poverty rate in Canada, so a poverty reduction plan was recommended, since we are the only province that doesn't have one, but we were told we couldn't afford that.
An increase to public education was recommended, since our children are funded $1,000 less then national average in their education, but we were also told we couldn't afford that either.
Disability, social service and pension rates have been frozen for years, making no effort to keep up with the steadily increasing cost of living, but we are also told we can't afford to raise those.
In the Lower Mainland, there was a huge push for an increase to transit tax, because without increasing the tax we couldn't afford the improvements needed.
Now all of a sudden they have $1.7 billion dollars just laying around?
How can we offer any praise to this government for a surplus? All they have done is taken our public tax dollars out of the public services they are intended for and hoarded the money away. Now they alone get to decide where all that "extra" money goes.
Imagine you live in the household I mentioned earlier. If you were one of the kids that had their food portion cut and spent all that time starving would you really care if there was extra money left over for me to spend at the end of the year?
I will take it a step further to say, not only is the surplus not worth celebrating, but it's also time we stopped patting Clark on the back for her balanced budget too.
When you really get down to it, a budget is just an estimate of what you plan to spend, so the numbers are easily manipulated. Sure, I could look at my monthly budget and say I'm only going to spend $100 on groceries when I know in going to spend five times that amount and just put the rest on credit.
But does it matter if I had a balanced budget every month, when I end up with thousands of dollars in credit card debt at the end of the year?
A good example is when you look at what Clark budgeted for fighting forest fires this year. Even with dry conditions and predictions of a very dry summer she only budgeted $63 million.
When you consider the fact we spent more then $293 million fighting fires last year, I have to wonder why she would only set aside a fraction of that in this year's budget.
Before the first week of July was over we had already spent $70 million going over the budget and the fire season shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the Liberals have gone over their fire budget nine out of the past 10 years.
In the past few years, B.C. has averaged around a $1-billion deficit each year, which gives you an idea of how accurate Clark's balanced budgets really are.
B.C.'s deficit tends to run lower then other provinces, and it is not uncommon for any government to end up with a deficit. My issue is that we have a government who invests less in public services then most other provinces and continues to cut and close these services, yet they still manage to run a deficit.
My other issue is that too many people are easily swayed into buying the hype around a balanced budget, without considering the fact they go over that budget every year, then brag about a surplus that they then use to try and pay down the deficit they created with their lowball budget.
It's time our government started taking care of its citizens and a $1.7-billion surplus is clear proof we can afford to do so. Because at the end of the day, a surplus means nothing when the average citizen can barely afford to live, or when one out of five children in this province are going hungry every day.