The Liberal government is planning to sell off several public assets in Surrey to help balance the budget it delivered Tuesday.
These include two vacant lots near 192nd Street, a former elementary school, a former school board office, and six hectares of vacant land in the Panorama neighbourhood.
"It's not sustainable," Surrey-Whalley NDP MLA Bruce Ralston said of the government's reliance on asset sales to prop up Tuesday's budget. "The Liberals' primary fix is to sell off our valuable assets in a onetime fire sale without proper consideration for the benefits of not selling. It is only a one-time fix that does nothing for future budgets.
"It's clear the Liberals have run out of ideas," Ralston said.
In February 2012, the provincial government announced that it would sell off 15 acres of prime land in Sullivan, at Highway 10 and 152nd Street, which had been earmarked for health-care development under the Surrey Official Community Plan's South Newton Neighbourhood Concept Plan.
At the time, Ralston likened it to selling the family's jewels to buy groceries.
The government says it already has sales agreements underway on 16 of 100 properties it hopes will generate $625 million for B.C.
"It's not clear it will actually happen," the NDP finance critic said.
Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, echoed that. "The challenge for the government will be to sell them."
Finance Minister Mike de Jong said that starting next January there will be a "temporary" two-year increase in the personal income tax rate on income above $150,000 a year.
"With this budget, we are also asking those individuals who have a little more to contribute a little more."
Huberman expects higher income earners - those who make more than $150,000 a year - will "not be entirely happy" with their personal income tax going up by 2.1 per cent or the general corporate income tax rate raising to 11 per cent from 10.
That said, Huberman's assessment of the budget is "thumbs up in general" because, she said, it contained a "reasoned and pragmatic" approach in tough economic times.
Some might say the government has taken a page out of the NDP's playbook by raising taxes on the rich this time around.
Huberman finds it "kind of like" U.S. President Obama asking the wealthy to help rather than a Robin Hood-style grab from the rich.
Ralston sees it differently. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," he noted.
Premier Christy Clark will be in Surrey this morning (Thursday) for her "Premier's Provincial Budget Breakfast," hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade at Eaglequest Golf Course in Newton.
Will Clark receive applause over this budget, or a get an earful instead?
"It's hard to say," Huberman replied, "because there will be a lot of big business there. I really don't know."
Provincial Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the budget he delivered Tuesday, which covers the next three years, is a "modest, responsible and achievable plan." Some highlights:
z Effective Jan. 1, 2014, Medical Service Plan premiums will increase by four per cent. B.C. is the only province that charges health-care premiums.
z Also starting on Jan. 1, 2014, the government will impose a "temporary" two-year personal income tax rate increase on income above $150,000 a year. The rate will increase by 2.1 per cent.
z Under education, 500 more teachers will be hired, at a cost of $37 million, and $17.3 million will be devoted to special education, increasing hours of work for more than 7,400 existing assistants and placing more than 400 new teacher assistants in schools.
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