Burnaby NewsLeader

MLA Corrigan decries sale of land, assets to balance budget

Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan -
Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan
— image credit:

With 12 weeks to go to the May 14 provincial election, the BC Liberal government has unveiled a balanced budget.

Not so, says Burnaby-Deer Lake NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan.

"It's not really a balanced budget at all."

That's because it includes revenue from the sale of $800 million in provincial assets, a move that is "not sustainable," said Corrigan.

She noted that economist Don Drummond, in a report for the Ontario government, advised against using planned asset sales in budgets "because you don't know what's going to happen to the price of land."

The list of assets the province plans to put on the block includes a "vacant piece of land in Burnaby," said Corrigan. While it's not known what property that refers to, she speculated it could be the former Willingdon youth detention centre at Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way as she's received indications in recent months that it's going to be sold off.

"That kind of approach to say, on a one-year basis we're going to dump assets without looking at the full economic potential—for example, working with local governments to create exciting projects that could be worth a lot more to everyone, including the provincial government—seems like a really short-sighted and poorly-managed way to approach the books of the province."

She said there's nothing wrong with selling assets but that it needs to be done in a prudent way looking at the best use of the land, and whether there are opportunities to turn them into ongoing economic generators.

Burnaby city hall has been touting the Willingdon property as a potential site for a new Burnaby Hospital to take advantage of possible partnerships with B.C. Institute of Technology across the street.

School boards across the province will have to find another $115 million or so to cut as a result of no new funding for education, Corrigan said. That's the impact of 1.5 per cent inflation and increased costs such as hikes in Medical Services Plan premiums, and the impact of returning to the Provincial Sales Tax system.

Emergency Management BC has also had its budget cut, she said. That provincial agency provides assistance to disaster victims, such as the residents of the Smith Avenue apartment block that burned down last weekend.

The budget's one per cent hike to corporate income taxes and the 2.1 per cent increase in personal income taxes for those earning $150,000 or more also appear to be taken from the New Democrats' playbook as both have been suggested by the Opposition party.

"The most cynical would be to say they're doing it to take away from the room that we could've taken in order to try to do the things that we want to do," she said, stressing she's not opposed to the increases.

"Having the tax hikes is definitely an admission that there is room and that [NDP leader] Adrian [Dix] and the NDP, who have been saying we need to have modest tax hikes ... were on the right track."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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