Province looking for budget input

B.C. government finance committee spends Tuesday night gathering insight in Penticton

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton found himself in a familiar chair Tuesday evening as the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services took over Penticton council chambers for a consultation session.

Ashton is chairing the committee, putting him back in the mayor’s chair, if only to run the Penticton forum.  The non-partisan committee is halfway through its tour of 17 B.C. communities, seeking input from citizens on the financial direction the provincial government should take in the 2014 budget.

“It was heard loud and clear by the past committee that people wanted a balanced budget and they wanted government to control its expenditures,” said Ashton, who was elected as a Liberal MLA last spring. “What we’re hearing is more of the same, they want government to be fiscally responsible.”

In the previous eight sessions, Ashton said presenters have been appreciative that the province is financially strapped, but are asking that when revenue does increase that the province increase funding to a variety of sectors, societies and groups.

“We’ve had people from colleges, universities, we’ve had student associations, we’ve had nursing associations, citizen groups, we’ve had advocacy for literacy,” said Ashton. “We’re well in excess of 125 presentations so far.”

Along with the physical forums, there will be another five conducted via video conference. In addition to attending and making submission at the public hearing, residents, business operators and stakeholders can make written, audio or video submissions, and respond to an online survey through the committee’s website:

“It has to be in by Oct. 16 and our report has to be in by the middle of November to the legislative assembly and the finance minister,” said Ashton, noting the short timeline for the committee, which began its tour in September.

“On top of that is having the committee come to an agreement on what the report will include and go forward,” said Ashton. Along with NDP deputy chair Mike Farnworth, the committee has a total of five NDP members and six Liberals. Ashton only votes if there is a tie.

“We’ve had absolutely phenomenal input from the communities we have been in so far and it is good to see that people care about the direction they want their government to take,” said Ashton.