This is a special guest blog post by our Executive Director, Alanna Hendren. She is relaying this information because this will affect DDA, families, children and services to people with developmental disabilities. Note that these are highlights that we think relate most to the DDA audience, not notes on everything that was discussed.
As we head into the final days of summer, the B.C. Legislature has gone back to work in order to prepare for the new provincial budget that will be announced next week – September 1 – by Minister of Finance Colin Hansen.
Highlights of the Throne Speech that will impact us (and some impact everyone who lives in or visits B.C.):
- B.C. is in its worst recession in 27 years (1982) and people are worried
- A harmonized sales tax will be introduced that will add the provincial sales tax to the GST so we will all pay more for things we buy
- “Shrinking revenues will by necessity curtail our discretionary spending (all services to people with developmental disabilities are discretionary other than Income Assistance)
- “The fiscal cupboard is bare and currently hangs on a wall of deficit spending. Intrinsic to our budget crunch is the chance to discover new ways of doing things and to find new savings by doing things differently in all Ministries and Crown agencies.”
- There is no money available for public sector wage increases.
- Health authorities, Boards of Education and Crown corporations will all be subject to similar reviews in the year ahead.
- “Where Crown agencies or functions delivered by them can be more cost-effectively administered directly by line ministries, they will be.”
- “Government will legislate a new Residents Bill of Rights to set out clear commitments to care and to the rights of residents living in residential care facilities”
- “We must now focus on increasing graduation rates and improving student performance from the earliest years. Government will place early learning and early-childhood development at the forefronot of efforts to improve our education services.”
- “Neighborhood learning centres will become the focus of intensive activities with city councils, library boards, recreation commissions, parents and professionals. Government will work to establish educational and pre-school opportunities in the midst of the neighborhoods where our families live.”
- Full-time, five-year-old kindergarten will begin to be delivered in schools throughout B.C. in September of 2010.
The Budget next week will give us more details, but the year ahead definitely looks challenging with potential cuts, a probable zero-zero-zero bargaining mandate and who knows what kind of new systems and ‘innovations’ they’ll be putting into place? Stay tuned!