'Public and community services are key to making sure that the economy recovers quickly and that everyone in British Columbia shares in the economic recovery.' - Darryl Walker.
Victoria (3 March 2010) - The new B.C. Liberal budget does nothing to support vital community services and lacks the kind of long-term planning that would ensure a broad economic rebound, says B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).
"Public and community services are key to making sure that the economy recovers quickly and that everyone in British Columbia shares in the economic recovery," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker.
This year's budget makes no plans to restore the almost 100 vital community based programs that have been cut since September's budget update. Additionally, a planned $10 million cut to programs funded by the ministry of child and family development was confirmed in mid-February, the union notes.
"The services that have been cut and the ones on the chopping block are the ones that turn people's lives around and build strong foundations for the future of our province," Walker says.
Programs that have been eliminated span all regions of the province and include primarily services for mental health and addictions, youth services and counselling.
"Clearly, there is no plan to deal with the province's astonishingly high child poverty rate," Walker says. "Allowing children to grow up in poverty hinders future generations' ability to support themselves whereas investing in B.C.'s most vulnerable pays off in the long run, resulting in more people working, lower health and welfare costs and less spending on crime."
The budget also promises even deeper staffing cuts to the public service than reported earlier.
"After two waves of layoffs this year, the government has set a target of another 11% reduction in the public service workforce by 2012-2013 and attrition alone will not get us there. They have served notice that more layoffs are coming," Walker notes.
One of the hardest-hit areas will be the ministry of forests and range which faces a drastic $84 million cut to programs such as stewardship, forest health, research, conservation, protection and compliance.
"These additional cuts to forestry and range mean a hollowing out of staffing power and expertise within the ministry - which will result in lower capacity to enforce existing regulations," Walker says.
He adds that if the government had come out with a long-term plan for the province it would have recognized "the value in investing in important services" for seniors and working families.
"Unfortunately, we do not see new resources being put into home-support services, which allow seniors to live with more independence and actually save money in acute care costs," he says. "And while the few new subsidy dollars for child care are welcome, there is simply not enough money here to improve access to quality care."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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