Yesterday’s throne speech paints a rosy picture of BC as an “island of prosperity.” It acknowledges that “all British Columbians deserve to share in the benefits of a growing economy” but it glosses over the fact that many currently don’t. What is worse, the provincial government’s own inaction in key policy areas is what’s causing tremendous hardship and indignity to many British Columbians:
- Too many children are growing up in poverty but the province is refusing to develop a poverty-reduction strategy with targets and timelines.
- Our schools don’t have the resources to support children with special needs. The much touted $75 million Education Fund was too small and only prevented further cuts. This leaves families the impossible choice between “paying their bills and the deteriorating mental and emotional health of their child” (as a recent report from the BC Parents of Special Needs Children highlights).
- Our hospitals are overcrowded, to a large extent because of underfunded home and community care.
- There is a crisis in seniors care.
- Welfare rates, including those for people with disabilities, are pitifully inadequate to cover even the most bare-bones living expenses. Rates have been frozen for nine years and there’s nothing in this throne speech to suggest this would change.
“For communities to truly thrive, we must care for those among us who need it,” states the throne speech. In reality, the government appears content to sweep questions of poverty, inequality or under-resourced public services under the carpet.
The only exception is child protection services, where the throne speech commits to hiring more social workers, and that’s only after a scathing BC Supreme Court ruling made chronic underfunding in the Ministry of Children and Family development impossible to ignore. Before that happened, alarms sounded by the BC Children’s representative and the union representing the Ministry social workers, BCGEU, fell on deaf ears.
The throne speech says a growing economy is what allows us to sustain and expand public services, yet the government has failed to sustain, much less expand, key programs despite decent economic growth.
Pretending our economy is working for everyone and all government needs to do is get out of the way is not doing BC any favours.