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BC budget predicts deficits for at least two more years

“The pandemic will end, but our work to provide a better future will not,” said Selina Robinson.

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The John Horgan BC government has projected a nearly $10 billion deficit this year, and is also expecting deficits over the next two years.

Selina Robinson, finance minister for the province, said the province’s NDP government is projecting a $9.7 billion deficit in this year’s $69 billion budget as BC tries to recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The pandemic will end, but our work to provide a better future will not,” said Robinson.

“Budget 2021 gives us the tools we need to build a bridge to the better days ahead, and I look forward to crossing it together.”

There were no new substantial spending announcements — the province made most of its commitments through the 2020 economic recovery plan. 

The commitments include: free transit for kids under12; a $175/month increase to low income and disability assistance, and 50 extra bucks a month to the seniors’ supplement; $2 billion in a low-interest loan program for builders of affordable housing.  

The province also promised to pony up $120 million to support tourism recovery; everything from major attractions to community destination development grants. 

There is also more than $3 billion that will be allocated for pandemic and recovery contingencies for necessary programs as they come about related to the pandemic.

“Many people are still feeling the effects of the pandemic — and they will for a long time,” Robinson said. “There is no doubt that COVID-19 is still very much with us.”

The latest forecast projects a deficit of $8.1 billion for the previous fiscal years down from a last year’s projection the deficit could be as high as $13.6 billion.

In her presentation, Robinson noted that in April last year BC’s retail sector saw the largest monthly decline on record, yet the recovery was swift and by January sales rose more than 15% higher than the previous year.

As well, the province’s housing market stayed strong despite the pandemic, with monthly home sales reaching record levels in 2020.

However, Robinson warned B.C.’s economic recovery is expected to be troubled across various sectors.

“Our recovery won’t happen overnight, but by choosing to invest in people and building the collective resilience of our province, we will keep moving forward together,” she said.

Meanwhile, the province’s has $3.25 billion in pandemic and recovery contingencies for the the coming year, including nearly $1 billion in reserve, money ear-marked for health-related COVID-19 management, such as vaccine distribution, testing, contact tracing and screening for COVID-19 at long-term care facilities.

“For many B.C. seniors, staying safe meant saying goodbye to visits with family members, hugs from grandchildren, or just a trip to the post office or grocery store. And it has been an incredibly difficult and lonely year for so many parents and grandparents,” Robinson said.

Another large chunk of cash is also pandemic-related and includes more than $1billion to support workers and affected businesses, $200 million to prepare for economic recovery and $1.1 billion in reserve to support urgent health or recovery tactics.

The province is also re-investing in health care. Those steps include: $585 million to train and hire as many as 3,000 health-care workers, $45 million to address systemic racism against First Nations folks in the health-care system and $500 million over three years in funding for mental health

The province will also invest an additional $233 million over the next three years in Childcare BC.

Additionally, the province is doling out raises for roughly 11,000 early childhood educators (ECE) across B.C. It’s a bump that will see average ECE wages climb to almost 25 bucks an hour .

Not long after the budget was announced, the Canadian Tax Payers Federation (CTF ) called on the BC government to rein in post-pandemic spending to avoid spiraling debt levels.

“While it’s good to see the budget deficit much less than most were projecting, the government is increasing the province’s debt by 45% within the next four years and we can’t afford to keep spending like this,” said Kris Sims, CTF’s B.C. director.

“The government cannot get hooked on emergency spending when there’s no emergency years from now,” she said.

“If you blow a tire on the Coquihalla Highway, that’s an emergency and it will cost a lot of money to call a tow truck, but you don’t keep calling a tow truck every weekend. Why are we planning on doing that with our provincial spending?”

The provincial debt could be as high as $127 billion in 2023-24, which represents an increase of 45%.

“We are burdening our children and grandchildren with these increased costs,” said Sims.

“It’s wrong for the adults in the room to stick the future generations with these bills.”

Our kids may be stuck with the current bill, but will get a break this fall when children 12 and under can ride transit free of charge.

The advent of COVID-19, and its myriad of variants, is the chief culprit behind the province’s open wallet, the finance minister said.

“We are in a pandemic, and there’s been extraordinary spending as a result of the pandemic,” admitted Robinson

“There are challenges ahead, but I’m confident by drawing on our shared resilience we will get through these challenges together.”

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

Mike D'Amour is Copy Editor of the Western Standard. He worked as an investigative crime reporter at the Calgary & Winnipeg Suns. mdamour@westernstandardonline.com mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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Truckers: ‘We are not separatists or terrorists’

The organization announced the number of heavy trucks-alone- going to Ottawa is close to 50,000, a large increase from the original expected 1,600 trucks.

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Truckers on the Freedom Convoy are rejecting characterizations they are “separatists” and “terrorists.”

“A small team of Alberta truckers, their family members and friends, came to the decision that the Government of Canada has crossed a line with implementing COVID-19 vaccine passports and vaccine mandates. As of today, we now have the support of millions of Canadians from across the country,” group organizers said in a press release.

Demands from the Freedom Convoy to the federal government are:

  • Terminate all vaccine passports, including inter-Canada passport systems.
  • Eliminate mandatory programs of vaccination and contact tracing.
  • Respect the rights of those who wish to remain unvaccinated.
  • Cease the divisive rhetoric attacking Canadians who disagree with government mandates.
  • Cease limiting debate through coercive measures with the goal of censoring those who have varying or incorrect opinions.

“A unified and free Canada can be our future, and it starts now with reminding the government they serve the people,” stated the truckers.

“We have an opportunity for all of us to come together irrespective of our differences and do what is needed to ensure our freedoms are protected now and for future generations.

Statements claiming the convoy participants are ‘separatists’ or ‘terrorists’ are “categorically false and an attempt to smear” the movement, organizers said.

“It is saddening this kind of rhetoric is coming from Prime Minister Trudeau and his government. Instead of protecting our basic freedoms outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Justin and his government seek to do the opposite. He is continually issuing defamatory comments and maligning large segments of the population. If history has taught us anything, these are actions that cannot be ignored. We are peaceful, hard-working Canadians who love our country and want the betterment for all Canadians.”

The organizers said due to the mass support of the movement, they can no longer guarantee the average Canadian will not be disrupted by the protest.

“For that, we are truly sorry, and we will do our very best to limit the disruptions to your lives. We ask that Canadians remember we are fighting for everyone’s freedoms and it’s the political class that has abandoned us all,” said the release.

The organization announced the number of heavy trucks going to Ottawa is close to 50,000, a large increase from the original expected 1,600 trucks. One driver going the opposite direction told the Western Standard he measured the convoy at 100-km long as it approached Winnipeg.

Some supporters are unable to commit to the whole trip, but are finding ways to still participate.

“A lot of vehicles just join the parade while it’s close to their homes and then peel off later, so it’s dynamic,” Martin Halvorson, a driver in the convoy, told the Western Standard.

“The amount of people is unknown because we are not counting … The numbers are big,” convoy organizer, Andy Draaistra, told the Western Standard.

“All the support is unbelievable, we hope the overpasses will hold the tons of people,” said Draaistra.

via risex100, Twitter
Via Basia Porter, Twitter

The protest is against federal COVID-19 mandates and is scheduled to arrive in Ottawa January 30 and then hold a mass demonstration the next day, Monday, when Parliament reumes.

Ewa Sudyk is a reporter with the Western Standard
esudyk@westernstandardonline.com

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China changes Fight Club ending to cops busting anarchists

Multiple scenes from the original cut were deleted and a new ending was added.

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The classic film Fight Club has been changed for viewers in China, with a ‘happy ending’ that complies with domestic censorship rules.

An altered version of the 1999 film was released on streaming platform Tencent Video in China over the weekend.

Multiple scenes from the original cut were deleted and a new ending was added.

Many in China had seen the original film pirated online and were surprised when streaming the newly released version.

Instead of buildings exploding at the end, the version shows authorities step in and win. 

Original closing scene of Fight Club

In the closing scenes of the original the narrator kills off his imaginary alter ego Tyler Durden and then watches multiple buildings explode with Marla Singer, suggesting his character’s plan to bring down modern civilization is underway.

In the censored version released in China, the narrator still kills off Durden, but the exploding buildings scene is replaced with a written message on black screen.

“The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.”

As well as Tyler, figment of the narrator’s imagination was sent to a ‘lunatic asylum’ for psychological treatment and later discharged.

Revised ending to Fight Club

China is home to some of the strictest rules regarding censorship, and only a handful of foreign films are released each year.

In the past Hollywood has created alternative cuts in order to comply with Chinese censorship rules, in hopes to access millions of viewers in the country.

It is unclear if the cut was made by western movie producers, or the Chinese government.

Tencent did not comment on the matter.

Authorities under President Xi Jinping have been working to eliminate society of influences classified as unhealthy, including within movies, television, computer games.

This effort was also extended to cracking down on the country’s local celebrities for perceived immoral behaviour.

The Cyberspace Administration of China announced earlier this week an organized month-long ‘clean’ web campaign to create a ‘civilized and healthy’ online atmosphere.

Ewa Sudyk is a reporter with the Western Standard
esudyk@westernstandardonline.com

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Butt launches Twitter tirade on Scheer for supporting truckers

“It’s a truly depressing turn for our politics to take in Canada. Have we paid no attention to what happened to US politics, and how it happened?”

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The former top aide to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has launched a Twitter broadside against former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer after he supported the truckers’ convoy rolling across Canada to protest vaccine mandates.

“Thank you Truckers! Trudeau is attacking personal liberty and threatening everyone’s ability to get groceries because of his overreach on vaccine mandates. He is the biggest threat to freedom in Canada,” Scheer tweeted.

Scheer tweet

That was enough to set Butts off.

“A breathtakingly irresponsible thing for a former Leader of the Opposition to say. Calling the prime minister — any prime minister — the biggest threat to Canadian liberty? This isn’t a dog whistle. It’s a welcome mat,” he tweeted.

“Politics is a rough business and not for the thin of skin or faint of heart. But the people in these enormously important offices have to respect those offices, even if they don’t like each other.”

Butts tweet

In a later tweet, Butts said: “Have been thinking about Mr Scheer’s comments all day. It’s a truly depressing turn for our politics to take in Canada. Have we paid no attention to what happened to US politics, and how it happened? I almost wish I were a Conservative, so I could fight for my party’s soul.”

On the weekend, Butts took a run at organizer Tamara Lich in an attempt to cast doubt on the integrity of Convoy For Freedom 2022.

“An Alberta separatist has collected almost a million bucks on a GoFundMe page to ‘support’ trucker protests. Where will the money go?” asked Butts in a tweet. 

More than $4.5 million has been raised to date as thousands of truckers are expected to descend on Ottawa this weekend.

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