On Monday, provincial and territorial finance ministers will be meeting with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Victoria to discuss budget priorities and the state of the economy.
New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston is urging B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Kevin Falcon to raise several outstanding questions British Columbians deserve to get answers on:
Will the province tell the federal government to maintain the six-per-cent annual growth in health transfer payments?
Health transfer payments to the provinces from the Canadian government are legislated to increase by six per cent each year. While the federal government has committed to that rate until 2016, there is wide speculation Ottawa may move to significantly reduce that rate increase thereafter. British Columbians expect their provincial government to stand up for our health care system and tell the Harper government we do not want to see a rollback to the health transfer payment schedule.
Will the B.C. Liberal finance minister negotiate a faster transition to the PST and release a clear set of rules?
Months after British Columbians decidedly voted down the HST, Liberals have failed to speed up the transition to the PST and release a clear set of transition rules. The Clark government’s dithering and lack of rules is hurting industries such as the homebuilding sector, and has had a detrimental effect on retail and restaurant sales. The B.C. Liberals should have known there was a real possibility the HST would be voted down in the referendum, and could have initiated talks with the federal government ahead of the vote. British Columbian families and businesses don’t accept the Liberals’ excuses for failing to speed up the transition.
Will the federal government protect British Columbia’s health care system from escalating drug costs?
The federal government is currently in negotiations on patent extensions for multi-national drug companies that could end up costing Canada an additional $250 million annually as part of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). British Columbians need to tell the Harper government we cannot allow for escalating drug costs under this agreement.
How much will the federal omnibus crime bill cost British Columbia, and will the federal government properly fund their own legislation?
British Columbia must ensure the federal government fully funds its omnibus crime bill and not allow massive costs to be downloaded onto the province. Our courts and corrections centres are already under-resourced and the B.C. Liberal government isn’t able to ensure our prisons are safe for under-staffed guards and trials won’t be cancelled for alleged criminals. The B.C. Liberals should join the New Democrats and other provinces in demanding the Harper government funds their crime legislation instead of offloading costs.
Will the B.C. Liberal finance minister advocate for an improved Canada Pension Plan that is best for B.C. families?
New Democrats believe that expanding Canada Pension Plan benefits is the best tool to help British Columbians save more for their retirements. While the previous B.C. Liberal finance minister supported expanding CPP coverage, the new finance minister, Kevin Falcon, has remained on the fence. Minister Falcon needs to say whether he supports the cost-effective Canada Pension Plan that works for B.C. families or the privately run pooled pension that the Harper government is proposing.
New Democrats believe British Columbians want a government that will advocate on behalf of hard-working B.C. families, and understands the pressures and issues facing small businesses and residents across the province.