REALITY CHECK: B.C. Liberal policies have made life harder for B.C. families
The New Democrats are working towards a fair and just society for all British Columbians, focusing on investments in human capital to give British Columbians the opportunities and skills they need to succeed. A New Democrat government will put families and communities first.
The B.C. Liberals are failing our children by failing to take action on child poverty and by undermining the public education system that our kids rely on.
- Highest child poverty rate: British Columbia has had the highest rate of child poverty in the country for seven years running. One-third of food bank users in 2009 were children. Ignoring the lead of other provinces, the B.C. Liberals have refused to implement a poverty reduction strategy for our province.
- Closed schools: B.C. Liberals have closed 191 schools since taking office - a big blow for communities around the province, particularly in rural areas.
- Overcrowded classrooms: More than 15,000 classrooms in B.C. schools don’t meet the government’s own class size and composition standards.
- Downloading costs onto schools: The B.C. Liberals changed the education formula in 2002, leaving many schools scrambling to make ends meet. To make matters worse, the B.C. government has been down-loading costs onto local school boards without ensuring that funding keeps pace.
- Post sec students pay more for less: Tuition fees have more than doubled since the B.C. Liberals took office. Underfunding of trades and apprenticeship training has meant long waiting lists even while there is a looming trades shortage. Colleges and universities across the province have been forced to cut programs and staff positions.
- Student debt levels soar: Student debt levels are among the very highest in the country, averaging $27,000 for a four-year program. Under the B.C. Liberals, British Columbia became the only province in the country to eliminate their needs-based grant program. Not only does B.C. provide the least amount of student aid in the country, at 2.5% above prime, student loan interest rates in B.C. are the highest in Canada.
Life in British Columbia has gotten more and more expensive as the middle class is shrinking and the B.C. Liberals have failed to make life more affordable.
- Growing gap between rich and poor: The gap between richest and poorest households in British Columbia spiked after the B.C. Liberals took power in 2001, and then continued climbing to become the second-largest gap in the country.
- Fees increase, services decrease: The B.C. Liberals have increased all sorts of fees – for example, this coming January 1, people will be paying nearly 70 per cent more in MSP premiums than they did in 2002. The B.C. Liberals made life even harder with the introduction of the HST, resulting in families paying an average of $521 more per year.
- Families forced to scrape by on less: Between 2001 and 2009, B.C. had the lowest growth in average hourly wages and the second-lowest growth in weekly wages in Canada.
- Lowest paid workers in Canada: While every other province in Canada has raised their minimum wage and many have created certainty for business by indexing it to inflation, the B.C. Liberals have frozen the minimum wage at $8 per hour since 2001. More than 245,000 British Columbians earn less than $10 per hour; over 90,000 are between the ages of 25 and 54, and two-thirds of those are women.
Social Services are being starved, with the supports that British Columbians rely on being pulled out from under them.
- Homelessness increasing: Between 2002 and 2008, homelessness in greater Vancouver increased by 137 per cent. Homelessness is on the rise in virtually every other B.C. community as well.
- Needless delays in health care: The B.C. Liberals allowed taxpayer-funded MRI machines to sit idle, and created year-and-a-half long waits for diagnosis by cutting thousands of medically required MRIs.
- Seniors neglected: Changes to PharmaCare have meant that many seniors are now paying increased fees, and many of the drugs they need are no longer covered. In spite of the B.C. Liberals’ promise to add 5,000 long-term care beds, care beds have been cut, and seniors’ care homes have seen privatisation of services and reduced staff levels. These factors have helped lead to several high-profile cases of elder-neglect.
The New Democrats would increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation, bring in a poverty reduction plan that includes legislated time lines and targets, invest in public education, and reduce barriers to post-secondary education by reinstating grants and reducing student loan interest rates.