Carole James MLA Report - February 2014

The provincial government will table its budget on February 17th, and I will be watching closely to see if it addresses any of the urgent needs in our community. Many of the pressures we're facing here in Victoria are the same ones citizens are dealing with right around the province.

This fall, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services toured B.C. to hear from citizens and organizations. I sat on the committee as the Opposition Spokesperson for Finance, and we heard about how hard it is for people to afford services and balance their daily needs as the cost of living continues to increase.

Citizens pointed out that, if government is going to promote economic development, then it needs to provide the physical and social infrastructure to make it happen. That means affordable services and access to housing and medical care, including doctors, nurse practitioners, mental health and addictions supports, publicly-funded schools, and efficient roads and transportation.

At the conclusion of the tour, the committee issued its report on budget consultations. It was a balanced summation of what we heard, and I hope the Minister of Finance listens and acts accordingly.

Let's remember that when government boasts about balancing the budget, the money to make that possible is coming out of the pockets of British Columbians. Citizens are paying through their taxes, BC Hydro rates, increased MSP premiums, and extra charges for other government services. This budget should recognize the challenge of affordability for families and individuals, and not add to the burden people are facing.

Government could start by addressing poverty in this province in a meaningful way with a poverty reduction strategy. Shamefully, B.C. is the only province in the country without one. Moving to eliminate poverty makes sense socially and economically. If we don't deal with inequality, it's going to impact the economy and all citizens, not just those living in poverty.

Persons living with disabilities are barely able to scrape by, and affordable and accessible childcare is out of reach for many families. It’s just not fair that government continues to punish single parents on income assistance and their children by clawing back child maintenance payments.

Will these issues be addressed in the upcoming budget? Will this government see these critical needs that I see each and every day in our neighbourhoods?

We hear a lot about the BC Jobs Plan, but it is falling well short of what is needed as government cuts funding to education, colleges and universities. Last month the province broke its promise and announced new fees for adult basic education upgrading and English Language Learning. People seeking to upgrade any of their high school courses to qualify for post-secondary, or upgrading their English skills to get into the work force, will now have to pay out-of-pocket.

That's bad policy. If we're going to fill the needs of today and into the future, any jobs plan is going to fall short if it doesn't recognize the vital importance of education and training. We need to help citizens gain the skills that our society will need in the years ahead, not put roadblocks in their way.

As we look into the future, we need a real commitment to meet greenhouse gas targets and address climate change in a comprehensive way. We should be investing in renewable energy technologies, conservation through retrofits, and public transit, which we can do right now to help our communities and reduce GHG emissions.
What if we had a budget that worked with and strengthened the services citizens need? We cannot solve all these problems overnight, but I want to see a budget that focuses on the priorities that matter to the people in our community and province.

As always, I appreciate hearing your views on this topic and any others of interest to you and your family. Please contact me at:

1084 Fort Street
Victoria, BC V8V 3K4
Phone: 250 952-4211