The provincial government should consider running a deficit in order to maintain essential government services, according to B.C. Government Service and Employees’ Union (BCGEU) president Darryl Walker.
Walker was in Prince George late last week as part of his tour of the province.
“We understand the need to balance the budget. We balance our budget as an organization. (But) there is a time when governments have to look at the needs and consider a deficit,” Walker said. “We’ve spent like drunken sailors when we had surpluses. If you cut taxes and cut spending, the people least able to cope with the downturn in the economy are effected most.”
Low-income families see little direct benefit from tax breaks, but rely on social services provided by the government, he said.
Premier Gordon Campbell’s 10-point plan appears more about politics then economics, he said.
“I’m still concerned there is not the openness of government and transparency of government,” Walker said. “A legislature that should have sit for most of the fall will sit for five days.”
Five days isn’t enough time for the public and opposition parties to understand the legislation being sought by the government.
Walker’s background is in adult mental health services. He said that progressive government cuts to mental health services over the last 20 years are an example of how cuts to spending result in harm to vulnerable populations.
“There are some facilities and programs, but there are many people on the street who have mental illnesses,” he said. “They’re basically left to fend for themselves on the street.”
Cutting services to mental health as contributed to a growing problem with homelessness and drugs.
“We need to do something about homelessness and addictions. It will make the streets safer for everybody the homeless and everyone else,” he said. “Those with mental illnesses have special needs. We need to give them meaningful life experiences.”