'The B.C. Liberal government has no credible plan to address the startling increase in poverty and the ever-expanding services deficit in this province.' - Darryl Walker.
Vancouver (3 Sept. 2009) - The new British Columbia budget continues a disturbing pattern of shifting an ever rising tax burden onto working families while cutting core public services, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).
The budget was tabled Tuesday in the legislature.
"While other governments are introducing comprehensive stimulus packages to weather the recession, the Campbell government is increasing costs to working families and starving public services," says BCGEU President Darryl Walker.
"The recession is already taking its toll on B.C. families with the number of Employment Insurance (EI) recipients up 140% and temporary income assistance caseloads up 56.5% since last summer.
"It's clear that the B.C. Liberal government has no credible plan to address the startling increase in poverty and the ever-expanding services deficit in this province," says Walker. "The government is taking us down a highly irresponsible path. As public services continue to be gutted, local economies will suffer and the recession will be deeper and longer than it needs to be."
No viable plan
Although the Campbell government acknowledges that B.C. has one of the leanest public services in Canada, and that there is a significant recruitment and retention problem, the government has no viable plan to rejuvenate the public service, the union says.
The budget promises a reduction of 1,500 jobs over the next three years through layoffs and attrition and re-affirms the government's plans for a freeze on public sector wages. This continues the attack on the public service that began in 2001 when deep and broad-based cuts were made across all ministries.
"The Liberal cuts since 2001 have been particularly devastating for the ‘heartlands' where key public services have been taken from many communities or eliminated altogether," says Walker.
The budget confirmed and deepened cuts to important environmental programs such as the ministry of environment's parks, protection, and stewardship programs; the ministry of forests and range's compliance and enforcement programs, and the ministry of agriculture's land restoration programs.
The ministry of transportation's highways maintenance and commercial vehicle inspection will also see cuts of $29 million this year and more cuts over the next two years. Other ministries facing administrative and program cuts are children and families, citizen services, community development, education, finance and labour.
However, BCGEU notes, the budget does not disclose the actual number of full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs listed by each ministry.
"The lack of transparency in this budget is shocking," says Walker. "Hiding these numbers makes it difficult to tell what the impact of the public service cuts will mean to British Columbians."
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