Provincial Budget Highlights: The $53.7 billion balanced budget is focused primarily on housing, childcare and increased capital spending. The government is now predicting they will eliminate the province’s operating debt by 2019, one year earlier than originally forecast because of stronger than predicted economic growth last year.
- Capital Spending: The budget contains historic levels of capital spending, including $15.8 billion in taxpayer supported expenditures and another $10.4 billion in self-supported spending over three years, which will create 50,000 jobs.
- Housing: A 30-point plan will introduce a speculation tax, increase the foreign buyers’ tax from 15 per cent to 20 per cent and expand it to include areas outside of Metro Vancouver. They will also increase the province’s rental housing stock and increase protections for renters.
- Childcare: The government will create Child Care BC to administrate the government’s universal child care program. This budget contains the first steps toward that goal and includes a fee reduction program (starting April 1) and a new child care benefit tied to family income (starting in September.) They will also be spending $136 million to increase the number of early childhood educator spaces at provincial post-secondary institutions. The initial focus is on infant and toddler spaces.
- MSP Premiums: As of January 1, 2020, Medical Service Plan premiums will be eliminated and replaced by a new tiered employer paid payroll tax. Businesses with payrolls under $50,000 will be exempt. The new payroll tax would take effect January 1, 2019, pending legislative approval.
- K-12: Over $400 million in new operating funds, including $207 million for enrollment growth, $72 million for a classroom enhancement fund and $49 million to fund the Economic Stability Dividend. There is also $1.8 billion in capital funding over three years for seismic upgrades, expansion and replacement projects, asset rehabilitation and maintenance, and increasing the annual playground equipment program.
- Post-Secondary: An extra $11 million over three years for enhancement and development of programs in computer sciences, information technology and engineering.
- Indigenous People: Over $200 million is allocated to housing, child care, skills training and language preservation initiatives to support the province’s Indigenous population over the next three years.
- Senior’s Care: Over $500 million is aimed at dealing with understaffing in senior’s residential care.
- Basic Income: The government will be convening an expert panel to explore and develop of a test pilot on the feasibility of a basic income in BC.
- BC Ferries: Major route ferry fares will be frozen while smaller routes will have a 15% fare reduction. The senior’s discount for Monday to Thursday travel will also be brought back.
- Luxury Taxes: There are increased taxes on high-end property sales and luxury vehicles.
New Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Established: Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean was appointed to the newly created position of Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. She will serve under the direction of Minister of Finance Carole James and has the following responsibilities:
- ensuring gender equity is reflected in government budgets, policies and programs;
- co-ordinating cross-government action on gender issues, including gender violence, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment;
- tracking progress on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women;
- liaising with feminist and women’s organizations; and
- promoting gender equity and leadership at senior levels in the public and private sector.