The BC New Democrats held an blogger-exclusive scrum with budget critic Bruce Ralston in regards to the BC 2010 budget, therefore continuing an event established for the BC 2009 budget update. This scrum was bigger than last time, involving blogs such as Northern Insights, TheLeftCoast.ca, Politics, Re-Spun, and B.C. Policy Perspectives.
Ralston opened by stating that what he found was the most striking thing about this budget was the BC Liberal attempt to try to re-brand the HST as a measure that would be used to exclusively fund health care. He predicted that this re-branding would fail and only serve to further galvanize opposition to the HST in BC.
After that short statement, the bloggers were allowed to ask questions.
In particular, I was interested in the BC New Democrats’ opinion on the rather particular property tax deferral program for parents with children under 18. Ralston didn’t think much of the program. It would not result in new funding or jobs that could help these families, only provide a line of credit at no cost to the government. Furthermore, Ralston thought it was rather ironic that the BC Liberals were introducing measures to reduce the tax burdens of large banks while enabling families to accumulate more debt.
In regards to the questions asked by other bloggers: I’m sure that they will be posting more details on their respective blogs, so I’ll just go over some of the highlights.
There was a lot of discussion about the HST, and how it would be a tax shift that would take the burden off of business and onto the middle class. Also mentioned was the fact that the BC Liberal Government choose to only receive $250 million of the $1.6 billion federal inducement for adopting the HST instead of receiving the originally agreed to $750 million for this year. Ralston agreed that it was rather particular that the BC Liberals choose to defer $500 million instead of using it to avoid borrowing $500 million and therefore having to pay interest on it.
Another question asked was: were the BC New Democrats still committed to better, independent reporting of government budget reporting? Ralston reaffirmed this commitment, and discussed how there was further work to be done in making the government budget process less archaic, less politicized, and developing more ways to allow better comparisons of numbers between the various budget documents.
Close to the end, somebody asked one of the big questions: if the BC New Democrats were in government, would the deficit be bigger? Ralston admitted that yes it would be, as the BC New Democrats made a commitment during the 2009 election to have a bigger stimulus package focused on green infrastructure and work to preserve services that would be harmed by short-term, short-sighted panicked cuts.