Every fall your union participates in the public consultation for the next provincial budget. The consultation is led by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services—an all-party committee of the Legislative Assembly—and involves public hearings across the province as well as written, audio and video submissions and online surveys. The Committee reviews all input received from organizations and individuals and releases a report including recommendations for the next provincial budget. Find out more about the consultation process and how you can participate here: https://www.leg.bc.ca/content-committees/Pages/Finance-Budget-Consultation.aspx
Yesterday, I had the honour of presenting the BCGEU submission at a public hearing in Mission. Our submission reflects the feedback of your senior elected leadership regarding the priorities and challenges of their members living and working in communities all over B.C., and is supported by the rigorous and comprehensive work of Research & Interactive Services (RIS) staff to research and document relevant factors like the state of our economy, the impacts of legislative and policy changes, and opportunities for innovation.
RIS research shows a strong fiscal and economic outlook for 2019 and we believe that gives the government the opportunity to continue the spirit of bold policy changes started in last year’s budget and go further, faster in some key areas.
Our priorities for 2019 fall into four key policy areas:
Address housing affordability and supply. I spend hundreds of days a year on the road visiting members in their worksites and the housing crisis comes up all the time, everywhere. The government has done a lot of work on this issue but it isn’t enough. Our submission urges the government to expand and accelerate direct investment—including capital funding and land contributions—in a broad range of affordable housing options—including public, co-op, social and non-market.
Budget for an effective poverty reduction strategy. Since 2017, I have had the honour of serving as the sole representative of B.C.’s labour movement on the Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction and I commend the government for launching a provincial poverty reduction strategy as a priority for 2019. Our submission urges the government to go take steps to rebuild the vital public services and programs that will supply the education, training, child care, social services, health and regulatory services that will determine the long-term success of that strategy.
Protect B.C.’s environment and natural resources. The economic, health and human impacts of B.C.’s floods and wildfires are impossible to ignore and expected to get worse. The deterioration of our public parks and natural resources are also reaching crisis levels. Our submission urges the government to restore staffing and resource levels in the key ministries and agencies responsible for protecting B.C.’s environment and natural resources including BC Wildfire Service, BC Parks, Emergency Management BC, and the various offices and agencies responsible for analysis, compliance, and enforcement related to environmental protection and natural resource management.
- Restore funding to our justice and corrections system. Beginning in 2002 budgets for B.C.’s justice system, courthouses, jails and legal aid offices were slashed. The result in 2018 is a system where access, timeliness, staff and public safety, program effectiveness, and the human dignity of clients all continue to suffer. Our submission mirrors the campaign work the BCGEU has done for the last several years, especially through our “Prison Safety Now” campaign, and calls for additional resources and the restoration of the funding necessary to rebuild a functional, effective, and safe system.
Our submission also included several well-researched revenue-generation ideas to ensure stable, ongoing funding for our priorities. While this is common practice for us, the Committee informed me yesterday that it makes our submissions unique.
I want to thank your elected leadership for passing on your priorities. I want to thank the talented and dedicated staff in RIS who actually worked around the clock to put this document together on an extremely tight timeline. Finally, I want to encourage all of you to take the time to read our submission. I look forward to continuing to work with your elected leadership, the staff of the BCGEU, and our provincial government to ensure our priorities are reflected in Budget 2019.