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This week the British Columbia government delivered its last budget before the May election amid a background of hospitals offering to name rooms after donors, and school boards selling advertising space on their vehicles.

B.C. residents also heard the sound of an election promise dying as Finance Minister Colin Hansen promised $200 million more for chronic care and tried to make it sound like good news.

The B.C. Liberals had promised 5,000 new long-term care beds during the 2001 campaign that brought them to power.

But $200 million over the next three years wont amount to much. The funding is not only for home care but also for residential care as well as treatments for mental illnesses and addictions.

All in all, the Liberals commitment to long-term care has translated into 200 more beds in the past four years.

Meanwhile the Fraser Health Authority announced plans to solicit donations from wealthy people and corporations, offering them the chance to have hospital rooms and programs named after them.

School trustees in Richmond, B.C., contemplated a plan to sell advertising space on the side of school board vehicles.

Union observers called the moves, designed to keep services alive in the face of funding cuts, symbolic of what four years of Liberal rule have brought.

HEU official Mike Old said it was unacceptable for a government sitting on a $2 billion surplus to force hospitals into shilling for dollars.