The NDP dropped its 2020 provincial budget on Tuesday, prompting immediate concern from a local Liberal MLA.
While he has yet to go over it line-by-line, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick described the government’s budget as a “classic NDP tax-and-spend budget” that failed to include anything meaningful for struggling industries — specifically the forestry industry.
“People in Kelowna in the forestry sector are struggling right now,” he said as hundreds of laid-off forest workers protested outside the B.C. legislature during Finance Minister Carole James’ budget speech.
“We’ve seen the closure of Tolko of course, yet there’s nothing as far as relief for forestry in the Okanagan.
“They were protesting a lack of attention by the government; they feel totally abandoned by this government. And the budget did nothing to give them a different perspective.”
The NDP’s third budget contains a new $13 million fund for “economic development and revitalization” of the B.C. forest sector, hard hit by reduced quotas in the Interior and high harvest costs that have shut down logging on much of the B.C. Coast and Vancouver Island.
The budget for forests ministry operations for the fiscal year is $844 million, up from $814 million. Provincial revenue from forest products is projected to go from $991 million this year to $867 in 2020-21.
Letnick said the new budget also ignores the plight of Okanagan farmers who have been struggling with low apple prices and it dropped the ball on the NDP’s campaign promises for $10 a day childcare and renter’s rebates.
According to Letnick, since the NDP took office in 2018, the government has implemented 22 new or increased taxes and has spent $11.4 billion annually.
While the spending may make the government popular in the short-term, Letnick said the negative economic impact will show itself eventually.
“Over a short time, any government can find a way of increasing taxes and increase spending and look popular,” he said.
Longer-term, Letnick said the “bottom will fall out” causing investment and business confidence to go down and jobs to be lost.
“The NDP of the ’90s is back and unfortunately that means that when the government does change over in a year-and-a-half — I hope — that there’s going to be some work left to the next government to address all these negative economic indicators,” he said.
-With files from Tom Fletcher