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OUR VIEW: Most restrained budget since 1980s

We say: A few surprises but no major shifts in policy

The new provincial budget is among the most restraint-minded handed down by a provincial government since the 1980s.

That’s the word from Bob Plecas, who should know. He was  a deputy minister in the Bill Bennett Social Credit government of the mid-1980s, one which brought down the infamous “restraint” budget in 1983. That  prompted the Solidarity movement and brought the province perilously close to a general strike. Plecas was in the budget lockup in Victoria on Tuesday. Now retired, he is a regular commenter on provincial affairs. Few people know more about how the provincial government works.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon introduced the budget Tuesday afternoon. It contains a few surprises, but no major shifts in policy. The current deficit is now projected at $2.5 billion, down a bit from $3 billion. Medical Service Plan premiums are on the rise again — 22 per cent in four years.

There is no HST relief for people who wish to do home renovations, except for seniors. It’s too bad it won’t be extended to everyone, at least until the PST returns next April 1. It would act as a boost to the economy. The $10,000 grant to first-time home buyers is a welcome and surprise addition. First-time buyers should look at prices carefully, and see if the grant will allow them to buy. There is no boost to the education budget, other than $165 million to address classroom composition. While this is necessary due to a court ruling that went against the government, the lack of a funding boost will likely anger teachers, who want a 15 per cent pay raise over three years.

Falcon also stated that the final increase to the carbon tax will go ahead as scheduled on July 1. However, he signalled that the tax will be reviewed, and it is possible that it could be eliminated.

The government focus on restraint is necessary, but it must examine how taxes impact individuals and the environment.

– Black Press

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