OP/ED: The spin has made me dizzy....

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
March 11th, 2010

After listening to the gurus and pondering the provincial budget for the last week, I confess that I’m confused. And the source of the confusion is the spin being put on the pill to make it easier to swallow. Headlines read: “Province protects services for low-income clients.” Details include all the areas they have cutback in order to protect these services. Headlines: “Community gaming grants for 2010.” Details: grants are up from last year, but don’t come to us for playgrounds, environmental groups, adult sports, arts and culture. Headline: “Budget 2010 – building a prosperous B.C.” Details: HST revenue will fund health care along with four other revenue streams (one even called MSP.)

First, let’s tackle the low-income services. The province’s own press release outlines services that are being maintained, added to or cut. “While persons with disabilities and income assistance clients can get help paying for essential medical supplies and equipment to reduce serious health risks, they can no longer have diagnostic testing devices (such as glucometers) or contraceptive devices.”

Great, now diabetics cannot test their sugar levels to know when they need to apply their insulin and thereby prevent a life-threatening health problem.

Not only will diabetics end up in the hospital, we’re not providing any prevention of pregnancies. Where’s the logic in this one? Low-income persons are the last people who can afford more children, yet they are being denied support to access a logical solution to a dilemma.

Are we really just encouraging increased spending on supporting children in low-income families (an increased cost to the income assistance program) or is it an overall ploy to increase school populations to keep our schools from closing?

I do agree with the reduction of the monthly bottled water supplement although it may impact on our bottled water industry!?!

Next was the generous increase to our community gaming grants. After scooping almost all of the funds to support general revenue (do I hear the word Olympics??) the government has generously seen fit to give more out this year again. It only took an entire province of people complaining to shift their perspective.

Great news for schools, but the general population of non-profit organizations are still short. Ask the local women’s transition house how they’re doing; I don’t think they’re celebrating.

And then there’s the HST debacle. We should be happy now that the revenue from HST (remember they said our taxes wouldn’t be going up) will assist in funding health care. That’s right up with the carbon tax, medical services plan premiums, tobacco taxes and lottery funds.

As the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said, “When a company tries to sell a product no one wants, a common tactic is to lure the customer in with an appealing pitch, then deliver a lemon deal. This is called a bait and switch. The B.C. government, in its 2010 budget, put a new spin on this tactic – more like a switch and bait. It took some hated taxes and rebranded them as “health taxes.””

Are we all fooled by this? Taking a tax and re-naming it health to sooth the public doesn’t coat the pill. And didn’t our MSP premiums always fund health care? Apparently not, it has been a general revenue item.

So as you’re wading through all the mire related to understanding provincial budgets, keep the spin in mind and don’t be fooled. No, our income taxes may not be on the rise, but now we have the carbon tax and the HST.

But that’s o.k., its funding health care…..

Categories: Op/Ed