In town for last week’s Rock Talk and the Chamber of Commerce reception for new businesses, Doug Donaldson, NDP MLA Stikine, took a few minutes to share his thoughts on the recent budget and amendments to timber legislation announced last week by the provincial Liberal government.
“It’s not a balanced budget,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson pointed to the revenues the provincial government was putting on the positive side of the ledger without having yet realized the revenues.
Some of the properties for sale, Donaldson said, have been included in the last three budgets.
The government also included a substantial dividend from BC Hydro in the revenue column, even though the corporation is currently billions of dollars in debt.
“If these two items don’t come through it could easily be a budget with a $500 million defect,” Donaldson said.
On the forestry front, the budget saw $40 million cut from forest health and nothing about the midterm timber supply report.
That means it will be difficult to implement any of the recommendations in the midterm timber supply report.
The environmental assessment office was flat-lined in the budget even though they are considering billions of dollars of projects.
“How is the environmental assessment office supposed to do its job and not have delays in the process if it doesn’t have the funding,” Donaldson asked.
“They have an order of magnitude in the increase in the number of projects that they’re having to process without an increase in their resources?”
The move, Donaldson said, erodes the public’s confidence in the environmental office’s ability to consider these projects.
Despite a burgeoning job market, especially in the resource sector, the pre-election budget announced a $45 million cut in core funding to post-secondary institutions over the next three years.
“How can we have people trained for jobs that could be coming our way,” Donaldson said.
“You look at that [budget cut] and you look at the NWCC School of Exploration and Mining and you wonder how are they ever going to get a commitment for continuous funding rather than lurching from year to year.
Donaldson, who serves as the mining critic for the opposition NDP, said that of five ministries involved with mining, three had their budgets cut and two were flatlined.
This, Donaldson said, would likely lead to additional delays in the permitting process and erosion in the trust in the permitting process.
Donaldson was also not impressed with the Liberals performance on the environment front, pointing to the Auditor General’s recent report on biodiversity.
“There was some pretty damning stuff in there,” Donaldson said of the report.
“The gaps the auditor general identified such as no understanding of biodiversity, no understanding of the effect of the conservation measures that are in place and not adequately measuring or reporting on biodiversity – those are trends we’ve seen over the last 12 years.”