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Budget 2017 does little to address public service deficit

The B.C. government’s election year budget sees modest increases in select public services, but does little to address the serious public service deficit stemming from more than a decade of budget cuts, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union.

Additional funding is targeted to politically sensitive areas that have seen serious service cuts since 2001, including the Ministry of Children and Family Development, B.C. Parks and Education. However, the budget fails to develop a seniors’ strategy or address the recommendations of the Seniors’ Advocate, to provide additional support for our seniors.

“The additional re-investment in MCFD is much needed and demonstrates the results of sustained pressure by the BCGEU and our community partners,” says B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union president Stephanie Smith. “However, the budget lift from last year has yet to see any real net increase in service levels. We need to do much better, to serve B.C.’s children and families.

“The budget is largely silent on providing for our seniors,” says Smith. “Home care, assisted living and enhanced health services are often out of reach for many elderly citizens.”

Likewise, the government’s commitment to hire 25 additional full time park rangers is an acknowledgement of the government’s long-term neglect of B.C. Parks, with only 11 full-time park rangers currently employed to oversee more than 14 million hectares of parkland and wildlife preserves.

“The re-investment in park rangers is overdue and really only restores 2001 ranger staffing levels, while more than 2.3 million hectares has been added to park system,” says Smith. “Total B.C. Parks staff has been cut by 40 per cent since 2008.”

Justice services have received a modest increase in this budget, but there is no concerted effort to address the ongoing staff shortages and safety issues in corrections and sheriff services. How many more criminals have to be set free for the lack of a sheriff to keep our courts safe?

“If this were a budget that truly gives back to British Columbians, we would see a real commitment by the government to re-build our quality public services,” says Smith.