British Columbia’s fiscal fate clouded with uncertainty but summer HST referendum promises to heat up the debate

“The generations of Canadians CARP represents were at the forefront when it came to demanding more transparency and better governance in business and in government. They now expect the same thing from the health care system. What we need is more accountability in the system and action that makes better use of available dollars. Some studies show we waste up to 30% of the money now being spent through things like duplication of tests and services and inefficiencies. We need better models of delivery, better use of technology, primary health teams, electronic health records, better home care and support for family caregivers. CARP argues that if aging at home is properly funded and supported, with the potential to lever the contribution of family caregivers, there is the potential to divert massive amounts of demand from the health care budgets—leaving more money to build the long term care beds for those who need them,” says Ms. Eng. Conspicuous by their absence in this budget were spending measures to implement such cost-saving policies.

Click here to read CARP’s HST Referendum article

Game Changer #1: a Potential $1.6 billion shortfall

Given that the province has already received a $1.6 billion transition payment from the federal government to bring the HST online, if BC gives the HST the heave-ho, the entire transition payment will likely have to be paid back to the federal government. Therefore, if the tax is voted down, the province could wind up with $1.6 billion dollar shortfall. More information on this is available in our HST referendum article

Game Changer #2: New Leadership, New Vision?

How Christy Clark will approach policy pertaining to older Canadians remains to be seen. During the leadership contest, her public statements on fiscal matters have been characterized by fiscal restraint; she has stated that a Clark government would take a pass on major spending programs or tax cuts until the budget is balanced. Her tune seemed to change in the leadup to the closely fought by-election though. On May 5th 2011 Premier Clark announced the Province will contribute $6.7 million to build 30 new housing units at 8th Avenue and Vine Street in Vancouver that will offer seniors and people with physical disabilities a safe, accessible and affordable place to call home.

“For a senior or someone with special needs, the security of a comfortable home and a welcoming community are key components to a healthy and happy lifestyle,” said Premier Christy Clark. “We want to help people live independently and remain in the communities they helped build and where they have put down roots.”

The government will provide a Provincial Infrastructure Grant of $4.5 million through the Seniors’ Rental Housing initiative, as well as the land valued at $2.2 million for 20 apartments for independent single seniors and 10 apartments for people with physical disabilities. The City of Vancouver will waive development cost charges estimated at $244,000.

The project site, located at 2304 West 8th Avenue in Vancouver, will be a four-storey wood frame building with one level of underground parking. The building will provide 30 apartments, including 10 wheelchair-accessible apartments designed for people with physical disabilities. A seniors’ resource centre will also be provided at this development and will be operated by Kits Neighbourhood House Association (KNHA). KNHA will also manage and operate the building in partnership with BC Paraplegic Association.