Provincial budget misses on core issues

I was hoping to avoid ranting about something in this edition of Mike’s Musings.

I was hoping this would be one of the nice ones where I get to talk about how awesome something is. But then the provincial government released its budget last week and that idea went out the window.

In this episode of the province’s “How We’re Spending Your Money” announcement, there were concessions made for people wanting to buy a house (as long as that house is “newly built’), but not much for those among us who are forced to pay other people’s mortgages for the privilege of living inside, making them unable to save enough to ever afford a down payment on their own home.

Rents are going up faster than paycheques, and people are already paying more than they should.

According to the most recent numbers from the Canadian Rental Housing Index, about half of the people who rent their accommodation in the Strathcona region (that’s us) pay more than 30 per cent of their household income on rent and utilities. That means that half of the almost 4,000 households in our region who don’t own property are living in an unaffordable housing situation. More than 25 per cent of them are spending more than half their income on living inside and having power.

Oh, and that’s based on their pre-tax income.

That’s disgusting.

There was also an increase in the provincial budget for those in our society who suffer from disabilities which make them unable to work, but then most of that increase was taken back from them by saying, essentially, that because we’re giving them a bit more, we’re not going to pay for their bus pass anymore.

That’s disgusting, too.

There’s nothing in the budget for increases to education, while school districts around the province are being forced to look at closing schools in order to provide the government with balanced budgets – which they are legally required to do.

There’s nothing in the budget for increases to healthcare, while wait lists for medical procedures continue to grow, and people don’t fill their prescription because they can’t afford it or skip doses to try and make it last longer.

There’s nothing in the budget for increases to social services like addictions services, or counselling services, or homeless shelters, or food banks, or senior care, while our elders are literally killing each other in care homes, more people are accessing food banks because the cost of groceries is outpacing personal incomes, and people are suffering from depression at rates we’ve never seen.

A more educated, healthier population that takes better care of each other is what we need to be working towards.

But no.

Instead we’ll put money into finding out where the people live who are buying real estate in Vancouver. No word yet on what they’ll do with that information once it’s gathered, though.

We’ll put money into creating a new commission to reexamine and “modernize” the PST. They say the review will not consider a return to the Harmonized Sales Tax, but you can bet whatever they figure out won’t end up with more money in your bank account after all is said and done.

We’ll increase Medical Services Plan premiums for people who are already struggling.

I want to say that investing more money – $217 million over three years – into the Ministry of Children and Family Development for things like hiring more social workers gives me some hope. But we wouldn’t need more social workers if people didn’t need the services of social workers as often as they do.

You know, by properly funding education, healthcare, addictions services, mental health and other social programs.

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