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BC Budget Update 2009: BC NDP’s Reaction & Bloggers Scrum

September 2, 2009

A lot of yesterday’s BC Budget Update 2009 event really consisted of the BC Liberals working to highlight it as a positive thing for British Columbians while downplaying any possible negative effects.bruce_ralston

Which is why the BC New Democrats held an blogger exclusive scrum with budget critic and Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston for the purpose of promoting its perspective and answering questions.

Ralston stated that the New Democrats believe two major things about the Budget Update:

  1. It offers the wrong formula to help British Columbians through tough times. Average middle class families are going to be hit hard with both the increase in MSP premiums. To further compound the problem for the middle class, the shift to the HST is a shift away from middle class friendly tax policy to business friendly tax policy.
  2. It proves that BC Liberals claims are not credible and deceptive. During the election, the finance minister and the premier continuously kept repeating the unrealistic claim that the deficit would be no more than $450 million. The actual deficit would be $2.28 billion dollars more.

After this statement, bloggers were allowed to ask questions. I’ll write down what I found to be the highlights below, as I am sure that Norman Farrell of Northern Insights and Stacey Robinsmith of TheLeftCoast.ca will be posting greater details on their respective blogs.

The most interesting question (which I would have asked if Robinsmith didn’t get it it first) was what would the BC New Democrats have done differently if they had written the budget. Ralston said that the economy was cyclical, and therefore it was not healthy to panic. As a result, the BC New Democrats would have ran a bigger deficit, for a few reasons. The first one for a bigger deficit was to preserve services, as it doesn’t help to cut back capacity in the present that would take a lot of time and money to rebuild in the future. The second reason for a bigger deficit was to allow for a bigger stimulus package, that would invest in BC’s future by developing green infrastructure, improving the mass transit system, and developing social housing. That’s not to say that there wouldn’t be any cutbacks: the BC New Democrats would have cut non-essentials such as consultation and travel. Ralston then finished off by stating that these were hypothetical, and as the BC New Democrats were not elected as government, but official opposition, the focus is on opposing the budget as well as possible.

In a response to a question from Farrell, Ralston also discussed his proposal to create an independent budget officer. It was modeled after the budget officer that the federal Conservatives put in place as part of the Accountability Act. The budget office would be selected by an all party committee, and has to be selected by that committee unanimously. Ralston contended that an independent budget office would balance the power of the Minister of Finance and his Ministry with the right of both legislatures and citizens to know reliably and definitively how BC’s money is being spent.

I am glad that the BC New Democrats are starting to understand the power of the political blogosphere, and are working to include it in its communication strategy. I hope that this blogger’s scrum is the first of many that will be held.

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