"Status quo" B.C. Liberal budget locks in three more years of severe cuts to vital public services

Over 2000 jobs cut to pay for $2.5 billion election slush fund 

VANCOUVER, Feb. 15 /CNW/ - The B.C. Government's Budget 2011, tabled in the legislature today promises only more of the same staff and program cuts for important public services, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today. 

"The B.C. Liberal government had promised a placeholder throne speech and budget due to their leadership race, and have instead delivered a budget plan that imposes three more years of cuts and unmet service needs, while creating a slush fund for the incoming premier's pet projects," said BCGEU president Darryl Walker.

"Meanwhile, single mothers can't access legal aid to obtain custody orders, and we don't have enough staff to operate our courts or jails safely or monitor offenders in the community. And yet the B.C. Liberal government's answer is to cut even further. Unbelievable." 

Overall public service staff levels, excluding transfers, are slated to drop by nearly 1000 positions in the next fiscal year. Over the three year term of the budget, the public service is projected to be reduced by seven per cent, or more than 2000 positions.

"The fact that these cuts are expected to be made through attrition won't matter to the public, who rely on government services in their communities," says Walker. 

Even the recent creation of the Natural Resources Operation [NRO] Ministry is not immune to spending cuts, noted the BCGEU. In fact, the natural resources sector is particularly hard hit in this budget. The combined ministry budgets of NRO, Environment, Forests Mines and Lands will be cut by roughly $50 million in the next year, a six per cent reduction on top of recent funding cuts. 

"Yesterday's throne speech talked about the important role of public service workers in our province," said Walker. "However, this budget shows that the throne speech is only more empty rhetoric from a B.C. Liberal government that has run out of ideas." 

The only area of the budget to receive significant spending increases are health services, which the Finance Minister boasts will see B.C. claim the second lowest spending per capita in Canada.

"Seniors needing home support services, or patients being moved from Riverview Hospital into already stretched community mental health resources can take cold comfort from a government that brags about being second lowest in health spending," says Walker. 

Also of note, the nearly 10,000 community social service workers who have been trying to negotiate a new collective agreement for more than a year will find no solutions in the budget, which maintains the current "net zero" negotiating mandates for collective agreements expiring to the end of 2011. No compensation mandate is outlined for contracts expiring after this date. 

"B.C. businesses will soon pay the lowest corporate taxes in the G7," says Walker. "But the price we pay for this low corporate tax regime is dramatically fewer public services and longer wait times. And while the Finance Minister brags that tax cuts have put more money in British Columbians' pockets, he fails to acknowledge that user fees and premiums are taking even more out of the other pocket."

The 2011 budget projects that medical service plan premium revenues will increase by more than 25 per cent over the next three years. 

"In 11 days we will know who the next B.C. premier will be," said Walker. "B.C. needs to chart a new course that reinvests in vital public services and rejects the current path of spending cuts on top of spending cuts, to give tax breaks to corporations."

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information:

Chris Bradshaw at 604-291-9611

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B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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