Here’s what some are saying about Monday’s B.C. budget update, delivered by the new NDP government:
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
BC’s new government has made a strong start in addressing crucial issues for British Columbians in its first budget update.
“Investments in affordable housing, including 2,000 new units for people who are homeless, as well as new funding for the Residential Tenancy Branch is very good news,” said Senior Economist Iglika Ivanova
BC has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada. Priority investment in programs for the most vulnerable – people who are homeless and seniors, for renters, for the public education system and for the fentanyl emergency is essential and heartening,” said Public Policy Analyst Alex Hemingway.
"Increases in the corporate income tax rate and in the personal rate on taxable income over $150,000 will improve tax fairness and generate funds for much-needed investments in education, social programs like poverty reduction and child care and in health care and affordable rental housing, said Ivanova.
“The initial funding to develop a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, including a basic income pilot program, is very welcome news,” she added.
While $20 million has been earmarked for new child care spaces, Ivanova said she will be looking to the full budget in February 2018 for a much more ambitious investment to begin implementing the $10/day child care plan.
For a further budget analysis from the CCPA, see policynote.ca/budget-update-investments-a-positive-first-step-for-british-columbians/
BC Federation of Labour
BCFED President Irene Lanzinger said she is pleased that the NDP government is following through with budget update funding for key election commitments, including:
• almost $500 million for a $100 per month increase in social assistance rates;
• funding to restore free Adult Basic Education and English as an Additional Language training to help British Columbians develop job skills;
• increasing taxes for high income earners and corporations; and
• maintaining the previous government’s undertaking to help the resource sector maintain jobs by phasing out the PST on electricity.
“We’ve been calling on government for years to establish a poverty reduction plan. Many of the initiatives proposed today by the new government—including the Fair Wages Commission—will help advance this important work,” said Lanzinger.
On the employment front, Lanzinger says a three-year commitment of $15 billion in capital funding to build schools, health facilities, housing and transit will create good-paying construction jobs and build much needed infrastructure.
BC Teachers’ Federation
The new government’s update to Budget 2017 includes significant new investments that are going to make a very positive difference for students, schools, and vulnerable children across BC, said BCTF First Vice-President Teri Mooring.
“With hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for public education, children in care, and mental health, the government has moved quickly to make good on their promises to BC students, parents, and teachers,” said Mooring. “With this budget, the government is fulfilling its commitment to fund the thousands of new teaching positions that flow from our Supreme Court of Canada win. The budget also includes new funding for immediate space needs in schools and a plan to inject even more funds into public education as enrolment increases.
Other highlights of the Budget 2017 update include new spending for important services for children in care, poverty reduction, and mental health and addictions.
“BC teachers see the impacts of poverty, mental health challenges, and inadequate access to social services in our classrooms every day,” said Mooring. “It is a relief to see this government make significant new investments in poverty reduction strategies, child protection, and mental health and addictions.”
Mooring also pointed to two small, but important investments that will make a real difference and speak to the character of this new government. “Restoring funding for adult education and providing free post-secondary tuition for former children in care will help our economy and provide meaningful opportunities for some of the most vulnerable people in BC.”
Hospital Employees Union:
Plans to tackle the opioid crisis, improve access to effective and affordable drug coverage and improve seniors' care are critical and welcome reinvestments in British Columbian's health care, says the 49,000-member Hospital Employees' Union.
"Today's budget update represents a recommitment by government to strengthening public health care, and addressing issues that are linked to poor health outcomes - like housing insecurity, poverty and addictions," says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside.
"By taking action to get help to those living with addictions, implementing a poverty reduction strategy and tackling housing affordability, this government will promote healthier communities and this will result in lower health costs over the long term."
Significantly, the finance minister announced $265 million in new spending, over three years, to reduce overdose deaths and improve access to mental health and addiction support.
The phasing out of the unfair MSP, action to address the housing crisis, the implementation of a child care program, a strategy to reduce poverty and improve wages - and other measures - will make life more affordable for many HEU members and their families, says Whiteside.
Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC
“Today’s fiscal update represents an opportunity for BC’s research universities,” said Jim Johnson, President of CUFA BC. “BC’s financial outlook is robust and now is the time for reinvestment. We look forward to further commitments in the 2018/19 Budget”.
The announcements on post-secondary education include enhanced funding for the Therapeutics Initiative at UBC and restoration of free tuition for Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programs.
“The increased funding and support for the Therapeutics Initiative is very welcome,” said Johnson. “The Therapeutics Initiative is a model of university research conducted in the service of evidenced-based public policy. However, we would also like to see more substantial provincial investment in research”.
The fiscal update includes the announcement of an Innovation Commissioner and an Emerging Economy Task Force. No details were provided, but CUFA BC expects BC’s research universities to be integral to any provincial innovation strategy.
No details were provided on the commitment for a $100 million investment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs. James noted that further detail will be provided in the February budget.
“We were pleased to see a commitment for enhanced funding of $100 million in the NDP’s campaign platform. We look forward to further details on this commitment in the February budget,” said Johnson. “The past ten years have included a decade of funding cuts and we look forward to a more comprehensive commitment to BC’s research universities.”
BC Health Coalition
Today’s update provides resources for a robust response to the opioid crisis, recommits to a 50 per cent reduction in MSP fees, and invests in home support and residential care for seniors.
“The cut to MSP fees will make a big difference for so many struggling to afford life in B.C.,” says Edith MacHattie, co-chair of the BC Health Coalition. “The province’s plans to scrap the previous government’s onerous process to apply for individual fee reductions will make sure everyone can get a break on the fees quickly.”
The coalition says the $322 million outlined in the budget update to provide an immediate response to the opioid crisis is a vital step.
BC Chamber of Commerce
The BC Chamber of Commerce congratulates the new B.C. government for tabling a balanced budget that looks to invest in our residents while supporting small businesses ability to prosper through targeted tax measures, but warns of a potential cumulative effect to our strong tax competitiveness when viewed in relation to recent federal tax changes.
The 2017 budget update maintains a number of initiatives strongly advocated for by the BC Chamber network to support future economic growth, such as maintaining efforts to make the Provincial Sales Tax more competitive by removing the PST on electricity bills for business and restoring the small business tax benefit for credit unions.
“It’s good to see the provincial government balancing its budget and continuing to invest in a sustainable economy – targeting its investments on reducing the small business tax rate and providing credit unions with a small business tax benefit helps ensure a competitive tax structure for small businesses looking to invest and hire more British Columbians,” said Val Litwin, president and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.
The Budget 2017 update also maintains several targeted initiatives to support further economic development and job creation across the province, including: the 50 per cent reduction of Medical Service Premium, another extension to the Mining Flow-Through Share tax credit measures, and a further increase to the Small Business Venture Capital tax credit.
The BC NDP government's first budget update delivers on commitments to re-invest in critical public services this year, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) said today.
The government will increase public service staffing levels by more than 600 positions, addressing the critical need for additional social workers, park rangers, environmental management staff and compliance and enforcement officers, among others.
"I'm pleased to see the B.C. government acknowledge the value of the important services our members provide to British Columbians," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "For the first time in years, issues like child protection, community health and home support, poverty reduction, mental health and addictions have seen renewed attention and investment."
"This budget update is based on prudent economic forecasts and balances modest tax increases for the wealthy with targeted public investments to support working British Columbians. It also acknowledges the impacts of long-term staffing cuts across government and in the natural resource sector."
Budget 2017 formalizes budget proposals that will see significant increases to the number of social workers in child protection, as well as a commitment to increase the number of park rangers and capital improvements to increase campsites in BC Parks, a new Abbotsford courthouse and an addition to the Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre.
"I'm pleased that the government recognizes poverty reduction, child care and affordable housing as important parts of a sustainable economy," says Smith.
“In just 8 weeks, the new government has put together a budget update that provides additional funding for vital public services, takes action to make life less expensive, eliminates an expensive tax cut for the richest British Columbians and commits the government to serious action on the fentanyl overdose crisis,” said CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Trevor Davies. “In addition, the new government is taking steps to address homelessness and the affordability of housing across the province.”
In addition to significant new investments in health care and education, the government is cutting Medical Services Plan premiums by 50 percent, and will eliminate this regressive tax altogether over the next four years. The budget update also increases income and disability assistance rates by $100 per month.
“CUPE’s 27,000 members working in the K-12 sector will welcome the new funding for public education,” said Davies.
“We’re also pleased to see increased funding for post-secondary education institutions, and the investment of $19 million to restore free Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning. Cutting this funding was an inexplicably short-sighted and mean-spirited decision by the BC Liberals, and the elimination of these fees means more people will now have better opportunities to participate in our economy and society,” said Davies.