ONE North Shore critic says any party that forms government after the May 14 provincial election will have to bring in a deficit budget about half a billion dollars in the red - if they're using realistic numbers.
"When you get to a real budget after the election, that's the minimum I would expect any government's looking at," said political commentator and former North Vancouver NDP MLA David Schreck.
Schreck said the $44-billion budget presented Tuesday has incredibly slim margins, with a buffer of less than half a percent - half to one third of previous years. "It takes very little fluctuation for it to be out of balance," he said.
Schreck also questioned using significant asset sales to balance the budget. "If you were a real estate speculator, you might not rush to dispose of those assets in today's soft (real estate) market," he said. Schreck added the 1.5 per cent increase in spending is the lowest estimate in the past decade and is unrealistic given the pressures on health care and education.
"Either they are going to have to make some real cuts or it's a phony budget," he said.
Kath-Ann Terrett, the union representative for registered nurses on the North
Shore, said Tuesday's budget - which provides only a 2.3 per cent increase to health spending - is "very alarming to us."
The skinny budget will mean a continuation of "hallway nursing," said Terrett. "It's just very frustrating to us."
Rob Millard, president of the West Vancouver Teachers Association, said the flat education budget also doesn't hold good news for schools. A freeze on block funding doesn't take into account any increases in costs, including wage settlements, he said. Even the four per cent increase in MSP premiums will cost school boards money they don't have, he said.
Not everyone slammed the budget.
Louise Ranger, president of the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, said overall the business community feels "returning to a balanced budget is good for investment and good for the province."
Everyone knew that would involve "tough choices," she said.
Ranger called the tax increases in Tuesday's budget "measured, manageable and necessary."
The North Shore's film industry found itself out of luck in Tuesday's budget, with no new tax credits to help keep productions in B.C.
Wayne Bennett of the Save B.C. Film coalition said the industry is "highly disappointed" but will continue to lobby both the Liberals and the NDP.
North Shore Liberal MLAs defended the budget this week as modest and prudent.
"I think if you like sobriety, careful planning and no nonsense this is a good workmanlike budget," said West Vancouver Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan.