The two sides of budgets

Government budgets are everywhere these days. The B.C. Government just came out with theirs

By Jonas Gagnon

Caledonia Courier

Government budgets are everywhere these days.

The B.C. Government just came out with theirs; the Bulkley Nechako Regional District has come out with their draft; and council is wrestling with its first budget with its new members.

While the regional district’s budget hasn’t seemed to raise storms of any type, the B.C. budget has just about every group, up in arms. The courts don’t like it; the teachers don’t like it, of course the opposition doesn’t like it.  Some business associations seem to like it though.

Fiscal prudence is what Finance Minister Kevin Falcon calls it. Others, like children’s watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, call it harsh.

Watching budget deliberations on the inside this year, although on the much smaller community level, has been at times enlightening, and at other times somewhat less than engrossing.

All those numbers, and dollar signs get thrown around, sometimes it gets hard to see the realities behind the dry, dry numbers. So when Falcon’s looking at his numbers he’s happy because he sees a budget that isn’t going to over run, and dollar signs that won’t need higher taxes levied. But when people with their noses in the everyday see the bill it can feel like the government’s turning its back.

Take the teachers for example. They have a union, and they expect to talk with their employers to negotiate their fees. Well talks seem to have broken down, and now the truth, as put down by Falcon, is the budget doesn’t have any more money for the teachers. So much for negotiations.

The courts, as mentioned above, are another example. Falcon gives them modest funding bumps and sees it as a job well done. The bar association sees a mountain of a problem with a molehill for funding.

So goes the tug of war between those in charge of the purse strings, and those in need of the dollars the purse strings close off.

But it makes me wonder if this ‘age of austerity’ we have entered with global downturns and countries threatening bankruptcy, will see so much ‘fiscal prudence’ that we hollow out our social safety net. It can be frustrating sometimes, watching dollars swirl around in business, and then looking at government turn out the pockets when services come knocking.

And in other news the Conservative government seems to be drawing fire once again. This time the trouble traces its origins back to the election and phone calls that were made in ridings with close races that told Liberal and NDP supporters that the polling stations had moved, even though they hadn’t, to dissuade voters from voting.

There’s a million words to be written about the calls, and probably more than those million words have been written, but it’s just the beginning of what promises to be a bit of a wild ride, so I’ll pause my pen until we get a little more info on who decided these calls were a good idea.