BC VIEWS: Election budget sets the stage

Battles over youth in care, mental health and addiction will dominate legislature

The B.C. legislature has resumed, with a pre-election budget to be revealed on Feb. 21.

This throne speech and budget are basically campaign events, the platform of a party looking to reach the dynasty level with five majority governments in a row. Here’s a preview of some of the issues that will stoke the sound and fury in the weeks ahead.

• Education: The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has issued its typically modest demands in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada’s casual dismissal of the BC Liberal effort to rein in public sector unions.

The BCTF wants $300 million a year more to restore the Utopian public school conditions that allegedly existed before 2001. And that’s not all. They want private schools de-funded, to solidify their monopoly over education and slow the exodus of parents who don’t want their kids run through a far-left indoctrination program.

I must say things have been calmer since Glen Hansman took over as BCTF president. Unlike many of his predecessors, Hansman seems to understand his main job is leading a Canadian trade union, not reshaping global society by issuing manifestos and marching in anti-Trump rallies.

• Health care: Premier Christy Clark has started the rhetoric about “cuts” to federal health transfers. This is one of those “alternative facts” that we often hear from the NDP, which habitually describes education budget increases as “cuts.”

The evil Stephen Harper “cut” that Justin Trudeau decided to keep is that instead of increasing six per cent every year, health transfers will go up three or four per cent. This is to force provinces to move past the post-war acute care hospital model and into home care, the only practical way to cope with the decline and death of the Baby Boom.

• Mental health: The BC Liberal plan so far is expanding homeless shelters and single-room-occupancy containment facilities for continuous street drug binges. This is popular with drug abusers across the country, as we have seen.

Housing czar Rich Coleman will likely announce his latest plan to do something with the Riverview Hospital property. The NDP will cling to its Soviet-era demand for a five-year plan for poverty reduction.

• Energy: Clark wants to stop talking about the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion. It’s a federal decision, you know.

All she did was shake down the oil producers for a cut of the profit, in exchange for her government’s “approval” of this federal project. Clark got a pass from the media for this apparently unconstitutional demand, part of her “five conditions” for issuing provincial permits she could have held hostage.

The NDP and Green Party will carry on with dramatic disaster talking points about what is really a six-per-cent increase in shipping traffic on the B.C. coast, coupled with substantial and long-overdue marine rescue assets.

• Youth in care: B.C.’s new Representative for Children and Youth carries on the tradition of highlighting the worst cases, most recently the flagrant neglect by a subcontractor paid $8,000 a month to supervise troubled teenager Alex Gervais in Abbotsford. Gervais was on his own in a hotel for 10 days before jumping through a window to his death.

Calls for the resignation of Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux will again be rebuffed, and work will continue on a growing problem of family breakdown that no B.C. government has had much success in dealing with.

Short-term contractors will continue to be employed, because there aren’t enough foster parents to cope with the current epidemic of failed parenting.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

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