There is plenty to like in the provincial Liberals new budget, unveiled Tuesday. Getting back to a balanced budget is always positive, and allows the province more freedom in the future. Having climbed back out of an economic black hole following the financial meltdown of 2008, we could certainly be worse off.
However, there are some things missing from this budget that raise questions.
Where is LNG? If you could generate energy by saying â€œiiquified natural gasâ€ over and over and over again, the Liberals would have created enough energy to light our houses for a hundred years. But the only LNG money in the budget is $29 million of spending to encourage investment. We know LNG is a long-term goal, with payoffs years away. But if so, please, can we hear a little less about its wonders?
Thereâ€™s more money for health care, of course, but no major reforms. Transit locally has been left to the mayors of Metro Vancouver.
Education is the real missing piece in the budget. There is some money for post-secondary programs, and cash to build new schools â€“ but nothing about new teachers for grades K-12. Or about the still-ongoing fight between the teachers unions and the province over class sizes.
The province has lost in court twice, and appears to be trying to prove the adage â€œIf at first you donâ€™t succeed, try, try, again.â€
Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer has pointed out that giving in to the teachers side, and increasing the number of teachers and support staff substantially would boost the budget by about one per cent per year. That would put somewhere around 3,000 extra teachers in schools.
Much like funding LNG, it seems to us that spending money now on better education might somehow pay off in the long run. We donâ€™t suggest going back into deficit â€“ phasing things in is the way to go. But if we have the freedom of a better financial future, nowâ€™s the time to invest in the next generation.