MLA Conroy sees Liberal budget as pre-election positioning

West Kootenay Boundary MLA Katrine Conroy compared the budget to selling the house in order to pay the bills.

In her reaction to the B.C. Liberals’ budget that came out last week, West Kootenay Boundary MLA Katrine Conroy compared it to selling the house in order to pay the bills. Characterizing the Liberals’ reign in office as “year after year of mismanagement,” she was disappointed that there was very little for “local people” in the budget again, something she said will have a big impact on places like Nakusp.

“One of my concerns, especially for a community like Nakusp which is quite forestry dependent, is the lack of commitment to forestry in this budget,” said Conroy, who noted there are in fact cuts planned to the forestry ministry.

“Last Thursday the Auditor General released a report on the state of forestry in this province, and it was scathing…Trees haven’t been planted, silviculture hasn’t been taken care of, it hasn’t been properly managed. That’s a real concern for our region.” She sees the Liberal budget as showing a lack of commitment from finance minister to forestry as an important industry here in the province.

Conroy also pointed to healthcare as another serious area for concern. Citing the 176 recommendations for seniors healthcare contained in the B.C. Ombudsperson’s report that was released earlier this month, she sees the Liberal budget as missing the mark. The Ministry of Health responded by saying that more studies and reviews needed to be done, said Conroy, something that she sees as unnecessary.

“This is a report that has been a long time in coming,” Conroy said, “[It] has taken three years and the reviews have been done.” Now is the time to act, she said, with more than a renovation tax credit that will benefit very few people in these times of economic recession. Money would be better spent, she believes, if it were set aside to help people with the costs associated with home care which would help families out and alleviate demands on the health care system.

When asked about the Centre for Canadian Policy Alternatives analysis that the Liberal government is “deliberately underestimating the amount of money the government has to work with” in order to reduce the deficit in the upcoming year, Conroy’s answer is clear: “There’s an election coming up in a year.” She also sees this budget as part of an effort to make the Liberals look good before British Columbians head to the polls.

In fact, Conroy said the provincial intends to sell off assets to try to make their budget balance so it looks better for the election next year.

When asked what the proposed sale items were, she replied, “We don’t know. We only know of a very few of them because they won’t release the list.”

“Where is the transparent and open government they had said they were going to be many moons ago?” Conroy asked.

Students aren’t going to see money for college, something that concerns both the MLA and local colleges. Conroy mentioned that she was meeting with the president of Selkirk College the next day to discuss the budget’s effects on post-secondary education, both in terms of student enrolment and the future of a skilled labour force in British Columbia.

Conroy says the NDP are also hard at work getting their platform ready for the upcoming election, and are looking at ways to save money that she says will be better for the province. Hiring nurse practitioners to work in rural areas is one idea, as is an increase in corporate taxes, but all details will come out as part of the NDP platform.

What, me worry?

When asked about MLA wages and pensions, Conroy responded that they were an easy target for people, noted that provincial pensions aren’t as rich as the more controversial federal counterparts.

“I’m not complaining, but there’s long hours and lots of work. I enjoy it,” Conroy said, and was clear that she wouldn’t be doing her job if she didn’t. She also recalled that there was an independent audit three years ago that looked at the work versus the wages for MLAs in B.C.