There's only enough cash to go around 0
Lately there is no shortage of individuals who have a hand out asking for a bit of spare change.
No, I'm not referring to the homeless guy you saw panhandling on King George Boulevard last week. I'm talking about provincially funded lawyers, judges, teachers, nurses and doctors.
It's being reported that the BC Teachers' Federation is asking for a 15% pay increase for its members. Meanwhile, lawyers are asking for more legal aid funding and requesting the government hire significantly more judges. Across town our medical professionals are calling for billions more to be spent on new hospitals and surgical procedures.
If Finance Minister Kevin Falcon were to meet all of these demands in his next budget, we'd be facing a massive deficit similar to what we're witnessing in Europe. But the fiscal reality is there are few dollars to spare in Victoria these days. British Columbia's revenue stream remains anemic as we struggle to shake off a lingering recession.
What seems to be lost in the call to spend even more precious tax dollars is the question of whether we're getting full value for our current investment. Are the groups receiving government funding really innovative enough to warrant a massive cash infusion into new programs and infrastructure? On the surface, the evidence would appear to be against them.
For example, there is a call to hire dozens of more judges to help relieve a severe backlog in the courts. But why is our current court system operating like we're still living in the stone ages? Despite the province investing hundreds of millions in court facilities, they often sit empty in the late afternoon, evenings and weekends.
Before we hire a bunch of new judges, the government should get written assurances they are prepared to do shift work. After all, even the big banks don't operate "banking hours" any longer.
When it comes to our school system we also have some terrible inefficiencies. How else would you describe the fact our public schools sit empty for more than ten weeks each year?
Meanwhile our "sick care" system is no shining model of innovation. We have overcrowded emergency rooms and patients complaining of hallway medicine. Yet instead of freeing up onsite space to open up walk-in clinics to alleviate pressure within the system, hospital administrators are leasing this real estate to retailers like Tim Horton's.
I'm not denying we may need to invest more into our core public services over the coming years. However, before we do so, let's be a bit more innovative and stretch those dollars as far as they can go.