Local MLAs lock horns over budget  


Published: March 06, 2010 10:00 PM
Updated: March 08, 2010 6:51 AM

Saanich's provincial politicians are predictably playing ping-pong.

In the wake of last week's provincial budget, Saanich's oppoition NDP MLAs were quick to take aim at the government's cost-cutting measures.

Rob Fleming, NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake and his party's environment critic, worries about further cuts to the Environment Ministry budget. After 2010-11, the budget will drop by three per cent in each of the following two years and that will have an effect in the Capital Region.

"When the ministry is so bare bones and understaffed already, anything that requires MOE signoff, including real estate developments and clean site certificates, (further cuts) can slow things down even more," Fleming said.

He added that B.C. Parks continues to take a hit.

"The parks budget has never been lower," he said. "We've never had fewer park rangers and conservation officers in B.C. parks. It's amazing that they're still cutting (that budget) …"

Saanich South NDP MLA Lana Popham also stepped into her critic's role, blasting cuts at the ministry of agriculture.

"The ministry budget is decreasing by about four per cent annually, some programs by more than this, reflecting a slow, but steady decline in Liberal commitment to agriculture in B.C.," she said.

Popham said the cuts are ironic given the government's frequent use of the phrase"'the cupboard is bare" to describe its finances.

"All of that translates for me as: what about our food system in B.C.? Why is that never a consideration?"

While her political rivals were critical of the cuts, Oak Bay-Gordon Head Liberal MLA Ida Chong said the government isn't going to try to spend its way out of the recession.

"It's easy to increase deficits and keep spending more but that's not gong to be very good for your children or grandchildren."

She pinpointed all day kindergarten and benefits to grandparents looking after their children as specific benefits for families.

"It's a way to keep families together because at the end of the day it's not about the incentives or dollars as much as it is about that the program will provide the opportunity for families and extended families to be together as opposed to (having people) in the care of government."

She doesn't agree with those who say this year's budget is a "gimmick" budget.

"Clearly they're not looking at it from the perspective of the fact that we've come through this global economic recession, that we need to stay the course in terms of fiscal discipline and that we have targets that we are going to meet."

Chong said the budget -- with a $2.8-billion deficit -- will allow the government to reduce future deficits and reach a balanced budget by 2013.