VICTORIA – Tuesday’s B.C. Liberal budget is more about political positioning than managing the province’s books, NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston says.
Ralston called Finance Minister Kevin Falcon’s target of two per cent spending growth for three years “unrealistic,” and motivated by a need to hold two by-elections this year and a general election in 2013.
Ralston also questioned Falcon’s proposal to increase general corporate income tax rate by a point, but not until April 2014 and only if the government still needs the money by then.
“When he was trying to win the HST campaign, he proposed an increase in general corporate taxation from 10 to 12 per cent,” Ralston said after Tuesday’s budget speech. “So when it’s politically advantageous, that prospect is dangled, but I don’t think they have any real intention of using that kind of taxation to meet the real revenue needs of the province.”
Ralston also questioned the move to sell surplus provincial land, citing Falcon’s example of a Surrey property purchased 15 years ago as a potential hospital site.
The property on Number 10 Highway has seen residential and commercial development grow up around it, and it’s being liquidated to raise money, he said. Surrey may well need a hospital site in 15 to 20 years in addition to the expansion underway at Surrey Memorial Hospital, and acquiring another one will be much more expensive.
Ralston said one of the things he was looking for in Tuesday’s budget was a major initiative for skills training, to match up unemployed people with the growing number of high-skilled jobs that employers are struggling to fill.