Funding cuts, HST drive uncertainty in B.C.

It’s been a chaotic and challenging time at the legislature over the last few months.

It’s been a chaotic and challenging time at the legislature over the last few months.

The uncertainty around the harmonized sales tax and mixed messages brought by a new premier who makes up policy on the fly have left British Columbians wondering what is coming next.

This government loves to talk about putting “families first,” but I hear from families in our community every day who feel their priorities are not being addressed.  Our communities are in urgent need of help.

Cuts to services provided by Community Living B.C., crisis lines, victim services and many more programs mean families are scrambling to cope. My staff and I hear about it every day at our Esquimalt-Royal Roads community office.

The extra burden brought by the HST has pushed up prices on many goods and services, and made it harder to make ends meet.

The HST is a massive tax shift from big business onto the backs of families, consumers and small business. With the HST, you pay more and get less in health care, education and other services. I cannot justify it, and I don’t believe my constituents can either.

Family-supporting jobs

What we do need are family-supporting jobs, and my colleague John Horgan (MLA Juan de Fuca) and I have called on the provincial government to stand up for our region and make sure that shipbuilding jobs come here and stay here.

In the next few weeks, the federal government is going to make a decision on $35 billion in shipbuilding contracts under its national shipbuilding procurement strategy.

B.C. has the infrastructure and the skilled work force to renew Canada’s naval and coast guard fleet, and the Esquimalt shipyard is the place much of the work should happen. One spin-off benefit from a successful Seaspan tender would be to build capacity for the West Coast industry to bid on B.C. Ferries tenders for new passenger vessel construction.

That way we can avoid a repeat of our jobs going to foreign companies, as the BC Liberal government did when it built new ferries in Germany.

Seeking our fair share

It’s a relief to see the improvements to the Island Highway corridor in View Royal complete, and that bottleneck relieved at last.

But it’s only one piece of the network, and we need to move forward with building additional transportation capacity including LRT and commuter rail along the E&N corridor. Long term, we must give commuters options and reduce the number of vehicles on our roadways. Otherwise we will be living in perpetual gridlock.

We must get a fair share of our tax dollars for infrastructure.

Priorities include a replacement for old and tired Belmont high school, affordable housing, clean and properly funded health care, adequate resources for the school system, and an affordable ferry system that works.

The solutions are available; we just need a government that understands the urgency, and is willing to move decisively.

—Maurine Karagianis (NDP) is the MLA for Esquimalt-Royal Roads.



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