The NDP government tabled its first budget Tuesday, containing plans for a child care plan and a housing plan.
“Budgets are not only about the bottom line, they should be about people,” said Finance Minister Carole James in a news release. “That’s why British Columbians are at the centre of every choice we have made in Budget 2018. These include historic investments in child care and affordable housing that will be felt for generations.”
The budget projects surpluses of $129 million in 2018/19, $281 million in 2019/20, and $284 million in 2020/21.
Over three years, the province will spend more than $1 billion to develop a universal child-care plan that, according to James, will make child care affordable for parents and caregivers, create more than 22,000 child-care spaces throughout the province and ensure those spaces meet rigorous quality and safety standards.
Budget 2018 also lays out a housing plan that introduces new taxation measures to tackle foreign and domestic speculation, to close loopholes and crack down on tax fraud, and to stabilize housing prices, she said. The province will contribute more than $1.6 billion over three years to build and maintain affordable rental housing, help finance student housing, increase rental assistance for low-income seniors and working families, and provide supportive housing for at-risk British Columbians.
The province will:
- Introduce a new affordable child-care benefit that will reduce child-care costs by up to $1,250 per month for every child and support 86,000 B.C. families per year by 2020-21.
- Provide up to $350 per month directly to licenced child-care providers to reduce fees for an estimated 50,000 families per year by 2020-21.
- Help build 114,000 affordable rental, non-profit, co-op and owner-purchase housing units through partnerships.
- Eliminate Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums by Jan. 1, 2020, saving individuals up to $900 a year, and families up to $1,800 a year.
- Freeze ferry rates on all major BC Ferries routes, reducing fares on non-major routes and fully restoring the Monday to Thursday seniors passenger fare discount.
- Change B.C.’s Fair PharmaCare program to eliminate deductibles for families with annual net incomes below $30,000, starting Jan. 1, 2019. Approximately 240,000 families will receive expanded coverage.
- Reinstate free bus passes with the flexibility to support other transportation needs will help over 100,000 people receiving disability assistance to better connect them with their communities and the services they rely on.
The budget also calls on funding for many services in the province:
- Funding of $548 million over three years to improve care for seniors and $150 million to help connect those who do not have a family doctor with team-based primary care.
- Hire more teachers, bringing the total to over 3,700 new hires around the province to support students and meet the need for qualified teachers in B.C.
- Contribute $50 million this fiscal year to support the revitalization and preservation of Indigenous languages in B.C.
- Dedicate $18 million to services that provide outreach and counselling support for women and children affected by violence.
- Improve access to justice through increased funding for legal aid, family law services, and the hiring of more sheriffs and court staff to help reduce court delays.
Budget 2018 also says the province will:
- Support communities hit the hardest by the 2017 wildfire season and invest in wildfire preparedness.
- Increase funding for B.C.’s agrifood sector to support enhanced Buy BC, Grow BC and Feed BC initiatives to drive consumer demand and get B.C.’s goods to overseas markets.
- Removef fees for Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning.
- Partner with industry, the federal government and First Nations communities to support Indigenous skills training programs with $30 million over three years.
- Increase grants administered through the BC Arts Council and Creative BC.
- Expand B.C.’s tuition waiver program and increase financial support for former youth in care while they attend post-secondary school or training programs.
Budget 2018 commitments are being funded by improved revenue forecasts over the fiscal plan period, as well as new revenue sources, including:
- A speculation tax, and increases in the foreign buyers’ tax, to address housing affordability in B.C. by reducing foreign demand, and curbing speculation in the residential property market.
- An employer health tax to allow for the full elimination of MSP premiums.
“For too long, British Columbians have not been able to get the services that they need or afford to live in the communities in which they work or grew up in,” James said. “We are taking bold action to change that with Budget 2018 – a budget that works for everyone in B.C.”