B.C. budget bites into green programs


Public transit and energy-efficient renovations are two programs that will take a hit from the B.C. budget courtesy of changes due to the new harmonized sales tax.

When the HST replaces the GST and the PST in July 2010, money from the seven per cent provincial sales tax on parking fees will stop being routed to Translink, Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority. Currently, Translink gets $15 million to help fund buses and the SkyTrain rapid transit system. Loss of that money, Translink says, could result in cuts to service and mean fewer buses on the road.

Environmentalists are also disappointed that subsidies for energy-efficient retrofits and appliances that are now exempt from PST will also be subject to HST.

“We were hoping the B.C. government would increase incentives for people to take green actions at home. And, in this particular case, it’s increasing costs for people to take action on climate change and other issues,” Ian Bruce, climate change specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation, said Tuesday.

Bruce Ralston, finance critic for the B.C. NDP, flayed the government’s apparent cuts to environmental programs.

“In 2008, they put forward a so-called green budget that is now just a distant memory. … With today’s budget, they’re reducing the eyes on the ground to protect the environment,” he said in the legislature.

“I think that the environment is off the table,” Green Party of B.C. Leader Jane Sterk said. “It’s not unusual when the economy goes down.”

Sterk also took the opportunity to point out that her party had predicted a $1.5-billion deficit in February, much closer than the B.C. Liberals’ $5-million prediction.

“Wonder why it is that the Green Party is able to see something that a minister, with all of his staff, was not able to see. We are also are predicting we will see a double-dip recession. The minister alluded to that in his comments, but it’s not shown in the budget that there’s any planning for that.

“And once the stimulus money has flown through, we think there will be a second recession before we see any long-term recovery for the economy,” Sterk said.

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