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Bond pans provincial budget, calling it a ‘tax and spend’ budget

Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond
Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond

BC Liberal finance co-critics Shirley Bond and Tracy Redies say that Finance Minister Carole James has presented “another tax-and-spend budget,” claiming there no plan for economic growth.

“This is a spending budget that relies on taxation revenue and a one-time $1.6 billion transfer from the federal government,” said Bond. “There is absolutely no focus in the budget to grow the economy or measures that support well-paying, family-supporting jobs. Furthermore, it’s irresponsible for this government to continue to make promises when taxpayers could well be on the hook for the costs. Clearly the NDP plan is all about tax and spend with zero regard for growing the economy.”

Finance Minister Carole James tabled the provincial budget Tuesday afternoon which balances the budget in all three years of the fiscal plan with surpluses of $274 million in 2019-20, $287 million in 2020-21, and $585 million in 2021-22. The province is committing $20 billion over the next three years to infrastructure and is bringing in more than $800 million in business tax reductions over the course of the fiscal plan 

The Liberals say the NDP despite having raised taxes on individuals, homeowners, and businesses to the tune of $5.5 billion since July 2017, the NDP government is projecting only a narrow surplus of $274 million for the coming fiscal year.

“I am deeply concerned this budget leaves B.C. vulnerable in an uncertain global economy,” said Redies. “The minister has forecasted razor-thin budget surpluses over the next three years. This seriously calls into question how the minister can actually balance the budget in the face of an unforeseen downturn in the economy or even another unpredictable and devastating wildfire season.”

Furthermore, the NDP’s 2019 budget fails to appropriately tackle the growing affordability crisis in the province, say the Liberals.

Budget highlights include:

  • Introducing the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit – starting in October 2020 – that will provide families with one child up to $1,600 per year, two children up to $2,600 and three children up to $3,400. Over the course of a child’s upbringing, families with one child will receive as much as $28,800. For families with two children, that number can exceed $40,000 in support.
  • Eliminating interest on British Columbia student loans. As of Feb. 19, 2019, all B.C. student loans will stop accumulating interest; saving someone with $28,000 in combined provincial and federal student loans $2,300 over the 10-year repayment period.
  • Fully eliminating MSP premiums on Jan. 1, 2020, saving families as much as $1,800 per year.
  • Increasing income and disability assistance rates by an additional $50 per month, meaning a total increase of $150 per month, or $1,800 per year since Budget Update 2017.
  • Investing $26 million in income and disability assistance enhancements to the B.C. Employment Assistance program to help remove barriers to accessing support, such as removing requirements that make it harder for older adults, youth and persons with mental-health issues to access the program; helping people get identification so they can access income assistance; and extending the shelter rate for those paying room and board to a family member.
  • Investing $6 million annually to provide respite services for parents who provide care for children with disabilities. This will significantly reduce the waitlist for respite services and increase the respite benefit by 10%.
  • Investing $85 million to support children in care by increasing support payments for foster parents, adoptive parents and extended family members caring for children and by ensuring children in care benefit from provincial tax benefits. This includes a 75% increase to support payments for the Extended Family Program and responds to recommendations from Indigenous communities and Grand Chief Ed John’s report.
  • Providing funding to community organizations to operate rent banks by providing short-term loans with little to no interest to low-income tenants who can’t pay their rent due to a financial crisis.
  • Introducing a homelessness action plan with a $76-million investment that will support land acquisition and services to bring the number of modular homes for people who need them to 2,200.

Delivering better services for families

  • Investing $4.4 billion over three years to expand and upgrade hospitals, medical and diagnostic equipment and health information management systems to ensure patients have the quality care they deserve.
  • Providing $105 million over three years to support life-saving cancer care services delivered by the BC Cancer Agency, including increasing the number of cancer-related surgeries, diagnostic imaging, PET and CT scans.
  • Improving mental-health care for British Columbians with a $74-million investment that funds new initiatives focused on prevention and early intervention for children, youth and young adults.
  • Increasing support by an additional $30 million, for a total of $608 million since Budget 2017 Update, to help tackle B.C.’s drug overdose crisis. This will help expand access to life-saving naloxone kits and fund pilot programs to help meet increased demand for paramedics in rural and remote areas of B.C.
  • Expanding B.C.’s Fair PharmaCare program with an additional $42 million, providing coverage for more drug options that will improve the health outcomes of British Columbians. That includes people living with diabetes, asthma and hypertension.
  • Providing over $550 million in additional supports for B.C.’s public education system, including $58 million over three years for the Classroom Enhancement Fund to support better classrooms for kids. This is in addition to the over 4,000 new teachers, including 1,000 special education assistants, hired to support students in B.C. classrooms.
  • Moving forward with an annual investment to pilot legal clinics to help people access the legal services they need.
  • Adding $111 million over three years to continue strengthening the Province’s efforts to combat and prevent wildfires.
  • Investing in a strong, sustainable economy that works for people
  • Making more than $20 billion in capital investments primarily in the health, transportation and education sectors-the largest infrastructure investment in B.C.’s history. This will create tens of thousands of jobs in communities around B.C.
  • Providing over $902 million for CleanBC, putting B.C. on the path to a cleaner, brighter, low-carbon future. This will reduce air pollution and save families money through the Clean Energy Vehicle Program, incentives for energy-saving home improvements, a net-zero building code and programs to help communities transition to cleaner energy sources.
  • Diversifying forest tenures and manufacturing, increasing timber processing in B.C. and supporting collaboration with stakeholders, including Indigenous governments with a $10-million investment.
  • Investing $18 million to continue making Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning free and accessible for people looking to upgrade their skills and get ahead.
  • Adding $21 million to expand BC Transit and handyDART services to help people safely commute in over 30 urban and rural communities in the province.
  • Providing over $39 million in new funds over three years to ensure B.C.’s bridges and roads keep people and goods moving, and an additional $4 million to improve commercial-vehicle safety by increasing inspection station hours and targeted enforcement.
  • Investing $9 million over three years to implement government’s commitment to modernize the taxi industry and enable ride-hailing in B.C. This includes funding for enhanced vehicle compliance and enforcement activities, and supports the new provincial regulator, the Passenger Transportation Board.
  • Providing an additional $15 million for the BC Arts Council to open doors for B.C. artists, writers and creators.
  • Making a historic $20-million investment to fund a fair, independent oversight body in the mining sector.
  • Providing nearly $14 million over three years to transform B.C.’s employment standards for protections and enforcement, keeping people safe at work.
  • To help connect communities and businesses, government is committing $50 million to expand high-speed internet in rural and remote communities throughout B.C.