New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy blasts Liberals’ budget

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Darcy says budget will hurt health care and could undermine New West schools
Theresa McManus / New West Record
February 19, 2015 02:26 PM – See more at: http://www.newwestrecord.ca/news/new-westminster-mla-judy-darcy-blasts-liberals-budget-1.1768900#sthash.2IZOv1Y8.dpuf

New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy is disappointed that the 2015 provincial budget doesn’t address the crisis in hallway medicine at Royal Columbian Hospital and could undermine the school district’s efforts to balance its books.

On Tuesday, the provincial government introduced a balanced budget that aims to build toward a strong and more diversified economy and provides additional supports to British Columbians who are most in need. The province is forecasting a $284 million surplus in 2015/2016.

“It was like the throne speech – it is entirely lacking in any clear direction,” Darcy told the Record. “I really worry about it for New Westminster. I worry about it especially for education.”

Darcy said she’s heard clearly from parents about the province’s need to invest in public education.

“Funding for public education has flat-lined,” she said.

According to the province, it’s increasing the Kindergarten to Grade 12 funding by $564 million over three years to meet its funding commitments for collective agreements negotiated in this sector, including a 33 per cent increase to the learning improvement fund. School districts across B.C. have also been told they’ll need to cut administrative costs by $29 million in 2015/2016 and $25 million in 2016/2017.

“It’s kind of like giving with one hand and taking away with the other,” Darcy said.

Darcy said she’s really worried that School District 40 is going to struggle after making “such great efforts” to balance the budget and pay back its debt to the province.

“Our school district is really lean,” she said. “It has gotten to the point where parents are speaking out and saying, we get that you have really focused on classroom learning, but we also need to make sure we have computers, we have books and we have people who know how to take care of our finances. If you are too lean on well-qualified people to administer a school district, you can run into a lot of difficulties, which has happened in New Westminster.”

Darcy, the NDP health critic, was disappointed that MSP premiums are continuing to go up.

“They hurt people who can least afford to pay them,” she said. “They are a flat tax. You pay the same amount regardless of where you are on the income scale.”

Most disturbing, said Darcy, is that “hallway medicine” continues to take place in hospitals like Royal Columbian.

“One of the reasons we have hallway medicine is because people end up in emergency rooms, who don’t necessarily need to be there. People end up taking up hospital beds when they could be cared for elsewhere,” she said. “I think it would have been really smart – and cost-effective – for the government to say, ‘We are going to do more investment in home support so that people can live independently longer, we are going to do more investment in residential care beds so that people aren’t taking up a hospital bed at Royal Columbian.’ They keep saying, ‘We are holding the line on health spending,’ but we’ve got a big crisis in hallway medicine.”

Darcy said the plan to redevelop Royal Columbian Hospital has “inched forward” since last year’s budget, when the government was proceeding with a business case for the redevelopment.

“This year, it does say the business plan for the first phase of redevelopment of RCH is complete and is pending review by government. Following approval of this plan, procurement will commence,” she said.

The provincial government states that it’s increasing funding to health care by $3 billion over three years, with funds supporting hospice services for children and adults. The province will also provide up to $12.5 million to the Canadian Cancer Society toward establishing a world-class cancer prevention centre in Vancouver.

According to Darcy, heath is 42 per cent of the province’s budget, but B.C. is second or third lowest in per capita spending on health care in Canada.

On the upside, Darcy was pleased that the budget responded to concerns from anti-poverty activists and the NDP about its policy of clawing back on child support payments that parents on income or disability assistance get from an ex-spouse. Those parents will now be allowed to keep their support payments starting Sept. 15.

“That was good news,” Darcy said.

– See more at: http://www.newwestrecord.ca/news/new-westminster-mla-judy-darcy-blasts-liberals-budget-1.1768900#sthash.2IZOv1Y8.dpuf