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Status quo B.C. budget not good enough: Corrigan
While B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen may be portraying his latest budget, announced Tuesday, as a "status quo" financial plan, some ministries are seeing actual cuts to their funding, said Burnaby-Deer Lake NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan.
Corrigan, the NDP's critic for public safety and solicitor general, noted that court services have been cut by $8 million, or almost eight per cent, from $103 million in 2010-2011 to $95 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
The cut is coming "at a time when provincial judges have just come out saying trials are not happening, criminals are going free and getting let off because trials are being delayed for so long."
Meanwhile, prosecution services are being cut by $6 million, or five per cent.
"This is at the same time as the government can find $6 million to pay the legal fees [of Dave Basi and Bob Virk, convicted in the BC Rail corruption case] and shut down the BC Rail trial," Corrigan said.
"I think that's pretty ironic, actually."
The province's budget for its share of policing costs is seeing a minor cut, as is the budget for provincial prisons, which has dropped by $2.5 million "at a time when we're talking about prison overcrowding," she said.
The province's housing budget has also dropped by $1.9 million which, combined with inflation and rising costs, will result in a real cut in services, she said. Similarly, the education budget is about the same, meaning school districts will have to scramble to cover increases in costs.
As for the contingency fund of $2.5-billion over the next three years, including $600 million in the year ahead, Corrigan dismissed suggestions the money is a prudent move.
"They're trying to create a nice little pot of money to hand out at election time."
The budget forecasts deficits of $925 million in 2011-2012, $440 million in 2012-2013 and a surplus of $175 million in 2013-2014.