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MLA says budget bad news for local residents

Castlegar Source
By Castlegar Source
February 24th, 2012

Local MLA Katrine Conroy had little to praise after the Liberal government unveiled its budget on Tuesday.

“Even the things you want to like … a good example is that they announced that a senior who renovates their home will get a $1,000 credit … the fine print says that’s only if you spend $10,000 or more,” she said. “The arts/sports credit for kids, they say it’s if you spend $500 on hockey, soccer, singing lessons, whatever … what people don’t know is that you only get a $25 credit for that.”

She said the news is all bad for every sector our region is concerned with: health care, forestry, seniors’ issues, education and post-secondary education.

“What was presented for health care – the increase doesn’t even cover the cost of living,” she said, adding that Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, while giving a speech, asked for (and received) applause for cutting $100 million from the health care budget. “There’s so much that needs to be done, and could be done with $100 million – and that’s not new money, it’s existing funds. Or it was.”

She said the Auditor General, on Thursday, released what she called a “pretty damning” report on the history of forestry in this province, indicating not enough replanting and reforestation is happening.

“There’s real cause for concern there. But for the Forest Ministry, there’s not new investment, there’s cuts.”

She said there’s nothing in the budget for post secondary education – in fact, she has a meeting slated for tomorrow with Selkirk College to find out just how damaging the new budget is for local college students.

“Our students have one fo the highest debt-loads in the country,” she said, adding the province is bleeding young people, who are ehading to Alberta to train ..and then to live and work, leaving B.C. with an ever-shrinking skilled labour force.

Even elementary/secondary education, a hot-button issue province-wide, has little to hearten the West Kootenay based on this year’s budget, according to Conroy.

“They’re selling off provincial assets,” she said, explaining the government has, instead of committing more funds, made it easier for school districts to sell off properties they have owned for years or even decades. “If school boards get the message that the way to balance the budget is to sell off capital assets, what about next year? Where’s the long-term thinking in that?”

All in all, Conroy said, there’s little to recommend the Liberal budget to residents of the Kootenay Boundary. 

To see a government slide presentation on the new budget, visit http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2012/slides/default.htm

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