MLAs battle over family budgets
VICTORIA – Opposition politicians called out Premier Christy Clark Thursday on her assurances that the province's budget would not be balanced by asking more from taxpayers.
"Look, it's the premier herself who yesterday said she would not be going out to taxpayers and asking them for more money," NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth told the legislature.
He estimated fee increases of $900 a year for thousands of B.C. families, including a sixth consecutive increase in Medical Services Plan fees.
"They're going to be paying more for MSP. They're going to pay more for hydro. They're going to pay more for ferry trips," Farnworth said. "They're going to pay more for car insurance, and if they live south of the Fraser, they're definitely going to be paying more in tolls."
Finance Minister Mike de Jong replied that the four per cent increase in MSP fees is the latest of a series signalled in the last three B.C. budgets. Premiums, many paid by employers, account for 12 per cent of a health care budget that has grown from $8 billion to $17 billion since 2001, de Jong said.
MSP premiums increase by up to $5.50 a month for families earning more than $30,000 a year, effective with the start of a new fiscal year April 1. On the same date, a nine per cent increase in BC Hydro rates takes effect, adding $8 a month to the average residential electricity bill.
De Jong cited assistance for families in the 2014-15 budget, including a $1,200 payment into a Registered Education Savings Plan for children born in 2007 or later. A tax credit of up to $55 a month for children under age six is to take effect in 2015.
The biggest priority for new program spending in this week's budget is an extra $243 million over three years for Community Living B.C. for services to developmentally disabled adults. Another $15 million is allocate to the Ministry of Children and Family Development for special needs children.
An extra $15 million over three years is directed to RCMP policing costs and $6 million is allocated for legal aid services.
The budget also directs $29 million to support development of a liquefied natural gas industry in B.C., including attracting investment and providing permits and environmental protection.