2010 B.C. budget bad for students, good for recovery

Finance Minister Colin Hansen announces the $1.7 billion dollar deficit, HST needed to cover the rising cost of health care, and no raise to the minimun wage in speech to the legislature.

By Kassandra Linklater [News Editor]

If post-secondary students were hoping that this would be the year for financial relief on post-secondary expenses, they’ll have to keep on waiting.

On Mar 2, B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen delivered his speech in the legislature in regards to the tabled 2010 provincial budget.

Despite the Conference Board of Canada’s quarterly economic forecast stating that “British Columbia will finish first this year, [with] B.C.’s economy expecting to grow by 4.2 per cent in 2010,” the provincial government still faces a $1.7 billion dollar deficit.

This deficit is sure to hit students hard.

“Next year, post-secondary students will pay $288 million more in tuition fees than corporations pay in income taxes. This is not how we build our economy,” said B.C. Federation of Labour President, Jim Sinclair in an interview.

The budget also does not contain any plans to raise the minimum wage, which is currently on an nine-year $8 an hour freeze. Although B.C., particularly Vancouver, in rated as having one of the highest costs of living in the country, the current minimum wage is the lowest in the country.

To make matters worse for students, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) will come into full effect this July 1, increasing the cost of a number of things from school supplies to a cup of coffee.

Hansen repeatedly referenced the “unprecedented global downtown,” in his speech, but added “although it will take time, we are on our way to recovery.”

Many blame the deficit and provincial spending cuts on the Olympics, however Hansen was quick to argue that expected 4.3 per cent GDP growth in the province is “partly due to the incredible success so far of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, which many hail as a turning point in B.C.’s history.”

Despite the changes in the global economic landscape, the B.C. Liberals played it safe with targeting the areas of support for key social services, health care, education, balancing the budget by 2013-2014, and stimulating the B.C. economy for job creation.