The British Columbia government's budget for the fiscal year 2016-17 is out of step with the needs of the province. As the provincial government lauds favourable economic reviews and boasts about strong growth and environmental leadership, it has chosen to cut spending on projects that would reduce carbon emissions, improve public health and bolster economic stability.
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The government's plan for 2016-17 calls for reduced spending on already underfunded public transportation infrastructure over the next three years, when the province is expecting rapid population growth. The budget fails to correct the freeze to B.C.'s carbon tax and makes no mention of money to protect B.C.'s coastal or marine resources.
"This budget fails to show leadership in many areas that are important to British Columbians," said David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce. "Rather than preparing our cities for an influx of residents and moving ahead with responsible actions to tackle climate change, it misses a golden opportunity."
Reduced spending on public transit infrastructure will be particularly damaging to the province's long-term economic prospects. Traffic congestion in Metro Vancouver already costs the regional economy an estimated $1 billion per year in lost productivity, with the figure expected to grow as a million new residents move to the region in the coming decades.
"We had hoped the provincial government would meet the federal government halfway with respect to improving transit infrastructure, but that appears not to be a priority," Bruce said.
"B.C.'s past leadership on climate change has been one of the best economic and environmental success stories in North America," Bruce added. "It's disappointing that a province that once led on climate solutions is in danger of losing its status."
The province still has an opportunity to improve its stance on climate change with updates to its climate action plan expected later this year. With respect to protecting marine and coastal resources, the province needs to do much more to meet conservation targets.
"How the province expects to meet its obligations to British Columbians to look after our coastal waters without mentioning the Marine Planning Partnership in the budget is beyond understanding," said David Suzuki Foundation Western Canada director general Jay Ritchlin. "With the federal government ready to take action on marine protection, it is crucial for the province to engage if we are to take care of the economic driver of coastal B.C. — a healthy ocean."
In terms of environmental leadership, this budget is a step in the wrong direction.
For more information:
David Suzuki Foundation — Steve Kux 604-374-4102