NDP SHOWS RE­STRAINT

Vancouver Sun - - EDITORIAL -

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Carole James’ bud­get up­date this week was a per­fect com­pro­mise — it made no one happy. For the 40.28 per cent of Bri­tish Columbians who voted for the New Democrats in the last election, the omis­sion of $10-a-day child care — one of the cen­tral planks in the NDP plat­form — was a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment. Also miss­ing were the promised $400 renters’ re­bate, in­ter­est-free stu­dent loans and more money for parks and cul­ture.

For the 40.36 per cent who voted for the Lib­er­als, the NDP plan to in­crease the car­bon tax by $5 per tonne ev­ery year and aban­don its rev­enue neu­tral­ity was al­most as dis­turb­ing as an in­crease in the cor­po­rate tax rate and higher taxes on an­nual in­comes above $150,000.

The 16.65 per cent who voted for the Green party are per­haps the most con­tent of the lot as their leader made clear that de­liv­er­ing NDP election prom­ises de­pended on his sup­port. Still, there was lit­tle on the en­vi­ron­ment for them to cheer.

But to give James her due, no one should have ex­pected the govern­ment to make good on ev­ery cam­paign prom­ise in this doc­u­ment. And it did de­liver on some ma­jor ones. The up­date in­cluded sig­nif­i­cant spend­ing com­mit­ments for K-12 ed­u­ca­tion, health care (in­clud­ing money to fight the fen­tanyl cri­sis), hous­ing and so­cial as­sis­tance. It also ac­cel­er­ated the phas­ing out of Med­i­cal Ser­vice Plan pre­mi­ums.

Be­sides, what James tabled was an up­date of the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral govern­ment bud­get. She will present the NDP’s first full bud­get in Fe­bru­ary when de­tails of those miss­ing el­e­ments may be re­vealed.

Hav­ing burned through much of the sur­plus, how­ever, James might not have a lot of room to ma­noeu­vre with­out slip­ping into deficit, rais­ing taxes again, or tak­ing on debt to fund big-ticket items like tran­sit in­fra­struc­ture. As for­mer NDP fi­nance min­is­ter El­iz­a­beth Cull noted in an opin­ion piece on Mon­day in The Van­cou­ver Sun, James’ main chal­lenge will be to man­age ex­pec­ta­tions.

In its first swing at bud­get­ing in 16 years, the NDP showed re­straint and re­spon­si­bil­ity. Whether it can con­tinue to do so de­pends as much on fac­tors beyond its con­trol — in­ter­est rates, cur­rency fluc­tu­a­tions, trade deals, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, global eco­nomic growth — as it does on its own as­pi­ra­tions to de­liver on its prom­ises.

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