Big business launches anti-budget offensive

The B.C. Business Summit has announced a new offensive against the policies of B.C.’s NDP government focussing on the recent provincial budget that increased health care spending by $618 million. “The time has come for B.C.’s business community to take its message to the people and the communities of British Columbia, and we’re going to do that beginning today in an aggressive and impassioned way,” said B.C. Business Summit co-chair Jim Shepard at an April 1 news conference. That includes the contracting out and privatization of public services including health care which are high on the Summit’s list of demands. Jock Finlayson of the Vancouver Board of Trade, and one of the Summit’s spokespersons, said that other provinces are “light years ahead of B.C.” in the contracting out of government services. As an example, he suggested using the “hundreds or thousands of health care workers who are sitting at home not working” to provide contracted work in health care. And while Summit representatives claimed they are not affiliated with any political party, HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says their program sounds remarkably similar to the platform of corporate tax cuts and massive program cuts on which the Gordon Campbell Liberal’s campaigned in the last election. “The recent provincial budget is about choices — balance the budget or make critical investments in health care and education,” says Allnutt. “ The government chose the latter and in doing so they are in synch with the values held by most British Columbians. “And while the opposition Liberals have been reluctant to say whether they would choose health care over tax and program cuts,” added Allnutt, “ I believe the B.C. Business Summit agenda is a fair reflection of their historic position on these issues.” The Summit also wants to see changes in the makeup of the Labour Relations Board that would be more favourable to the business community. The panel did have some good things to say about government changes in employment standards that “allow” high tech employees to work unpaid overtime — a change opposed by HEU and other unions. The Summit’s agenda includes lowering the minimum wage for young people. “People working for today’s minimum wage are very seldom able to support themselves independently,” says Allnutt. “The idea of creating a special class of people who earn even less than this minimal amount is an abhorent idea.” The Health Employers Association of B.C. is an endorsing organization of the B.C. Business Summit.