BCGEU submission focuses on five key areas of public service in need of additional resource investment and identifies four additional revenue sources to meet the needs identified in the submission.
Vancouver (16 Oct. 2015) — Stephanie Smith, President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU/NUPGE), attended a meeting of the B.C. Government Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on behalf of the union’s 65,000 members, to make an oral and written submission outlining union priorities for the 2016 budget.
Five priority areas outlined
The BCGEU submission focuses on five key areas of public service in need of additional resource investment and identifies four additional revenue sources to meet the needs identified in the submission.
“It’s important that the union takes advantage of this annual opportunity to identify areas of public service that require attention,” says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. “It’s also important that we identify sustainable sources of revenue to pay for these pubic services.”
Key areas of public investment include:
- Improved service levels for the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation – Budget and service cuts have negatively impacted clients’ ability to access services. The union proposes: increased funding to re-open offices; re-establish full office hours; increase frontline and administrative staff to meet unmanageable case-loads.
- Adequate resourcing of BC Wildfire Service – With an annual budget for direct wildfire fighting frozen at $63 million, compared to average annual expenditures of $190 million per year, changes to the budgeting process are required, including: planning adequate regular and seasonal staffing levels; increasing support for seasonal firefighters; developing a long-term strategy to deal with the effects of climate change on B.C. forests.
- Increased funding for Ministry of Children and Family Development – Two recent reports identified systemic underfunding of MCFD staffing levels, despite increased demand. The union renews our call to increase funding for core services and adoption of clear workload standards, as well as establishment of a new core business area in MCFD for Aboriginal services.
- Strengthening environmental initiatives – To meet the province’s goals for greenhouse gas emissions and protection of the environment, the union proposes: Increasing carbon tax to $50/tonne by 2019; expand the Low-Income Climate Action Credit and introduce clawbacks more slowly; increase front-line and administrative staff in natural resource and environment ministries to enhance environmental protection.
- Additional home support services – A BC study shows that cuts to home support costs $4,100 per year in extra health care costs. The BCGEU is concerned that BC gov’t funding of $26 million+ to United Way of Lower Mainland’s ‘Better at Home’ program, using volunteers and low-wage workers, undermines the home support program. The union has proposed the BC government transfer this funding to BC’s regional health authorities.
Revenue problem - not a spending problem
The BCGEU believes there isn’t a public spending problem, but a public revenue problem, and is proposing revenue options to pay for increased service levels, including:
- Retain and make permanent the temporary top personal income tax rate at 16.8% on incomes over $150,000, raising $175 million/year.
- Increase top personal income tax rate to 17 per cent, assuming expiry of temporary rate, and create two new tax brackets – 20 per cent on income between $150-$200,000; and 22 per cent on income over $200,000. This would raise nearly $1 billion/year.
- Restore corporate income tax rate to the 2002 level of 13.5 per cent, which would raise $700 million/year. Eliminating corporate tax deductions would raise another $300 million.
- Phase out costly, inefficient subsidies to oil and gas industry, like the Infrastructure Royalty Credit program which subsidizes roads and pipelines to profitable oil and gas fields, costing $840 million since 2004.
Challenges government to implement measures
The BCGEU challenges the B.C. government to implement meaningful and viable revenue improvement options to restore fairness to our economy. These revenue measures if fully implemented would raise upward of $3 billion annually to support necessary, quality public services to British Columbians.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE