Castlegar councillors don't concur on controversial provincial budget
Local leaders are divided in their reaction to the Provincial Liberals’ 2016 budget.
City councillor Deb McIntosh pulled no punches in a critique she posted on Facebook.
“Balanced budgets are fantastic, but not when we allow a high level of child poverty and no changes to income assistance rates,” McIntosh wrote. “Fantastic news, I’m sure low-income people are feeling valued. Let’s not forget, Families First … oh, sorry, they didn’t mean yours.”
She said the budget not only fails in terms of social values, it should also offend even the least-altruistic British Columbians, because it will actually increase the burden on (and therefore the cost of) government agencies in the future.
“Compassion, respect, integrity are sadly lacking in the province’s balanced budget,” she said. “To dismiss the poor speaks volumes. If we truly want to be a healthy, fiscally-responsible society, then we need to care for the most vulnerable.
“To continually ignore poverty will cause higher medical costs, higher RCMP costs, higher volumes of crisis grants, more children in care and lost hope for those trying so hard to make it out of the system.”
City councillor Florio Vassilakakis, on the other hand, said he thinks there’s something in this budget for everyone.
“As local politicians, we understand the need to balance revenue with all the costs we have,” he said. “What it comes down to is balancing the needs of British Columbians with the finite resources available.”
He said it’s good management, not luck, that has B.C. in such a strong position economically, despite the significant challenges dogging other provinces like Alberta and Ontario.
“Having a good credit rating means you save interest – and that’s money that can then be pumped back into social programming, health care and education,” he said, adding that running a deficit budget would cost money that should be going to those sectors.
He pointed to changes in the MSP premium structure as evidence the province is trying to make life easier for children and lower-income families. He said he thinks there’s a perception out there that the BC Liberals are heartless when, in fact, he thinks what they really are is pragmatic.
“It’s more important to have a balanced budget, so you can address these issues incrementally, balancing social responsibility with fiscal responsibility.”