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Kootenay East MLA says provincial budget fails to meet needs of B.C. residents

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka said the budget presented by the B.C. NDP government fails to adequately deal with the issues faced by many British Columbians.

“Some folks are just hanging on the edge and a lot of this stuff has just been regurgitated promises from the past like 114,000 affordable homes and $10 a day daycare,” said Shypitka. “A budget is to spend money, and that’s public money, but what have they accomplished? It’s more of the same over and over.”

Specifically, Shypitka called out the lack of details in the proposed budget to address one of the NDP’s tentpole issues: affordability.

“They were going to make life more affordable. They went all-in on that and they talked about all kinds of stuff like $10 a day daycare,” said Shypitka. “If we can accomplish that and have $10 a day daycare, I’m all for that, but this was a false promise made and we’re not seeing anything really close.”

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The provincial government said it will allocate $3.2 billion in additional funding for health care, but Shypitka feels that mental health and addictions were not fully addressed.

“That was another thing they really wanted to focus on. Back in 2017, they were horrified by 948 overdose deaths in British Columbia, well, that figure now is 2,422 last year,” said Shypitka. “It’s almost tripled under this government and we’re not seeing the supports we need. They’re rolling out money and it’s good money after bad because we’re seeing a lot on the harm reduction side of things, which is definitely one of the four pillars of recovery. But, we’re not seeing anything on the other three, which is prevention, enforcement and treatment.”

The Kootenay East MLA also feels that the budget, and the province’s strategy thus far, takes an unproductive approach to helping B.C.’s homeless population.

“What we’ve seen from this government, as far as its solution, is buying hotels and packing and stacking in there without any kinds of recovery or support,” explained Shypitka. “It’s costing the taxpayers dearly but we’re just getting farther behind.”

Shypitka said he would like to see a budget with more focus on an economic plan with room for B.C.’s natural resource sector.

“We’re leaders in the world environmentally, safety-wise and human rights-wise, so let’s get behind that. Let’s look for safe and responsible resource extraction,” said Shypitka. “Everybody is talking about reducing global greenhouse emissions, so let’s get behind that and let’s put our money where our mouth is. We need those critical minerals for a low-carbon future, so that means mining.”

Echoing a statement from his local counterpart, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok, Shypika feels the proposed tax on used vehicles will disproportionately impact people looking to save money on a personal vehicle.

That said, the proposed budget does mention that zero-emission vehicles will be exempt from provincial sales tax (PST) through to 2027.

The one positive thing Shypitka saw in the financial plan was extended support for youth aging out of government care.

“Those that are in foster care that age out at 19, they’re out of the Crown’s protection. Sometimes these young adults, they get thrown out into the world with zero support,” said Shypitka. “I think that’s a positive, and I’ll give credit where credit is due.  I think we can build on that, but once again it becomes an issue of affordability, we’re seeing a record number of opioid deaths and the cost of everything is going sky-high.”

Shypitka said he and the B.C. Liberals will debate the budget in the Legislature.

“It’s going to take everything I have to go through a half-hour budget speech and get it all in. There’s just no way.”

More: ‘Not a bright future for B.C.’: Columbia River Revelstoke MLA slams proposed provincial budget (Feb 23, 2022)

More: NDP projects $5.5 billion deficit in 2022-23 budget (Feb 22, 2022)

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