The B.C. NDP has added significant new spending in its 2017 Budget update, which is its first financial plan since it took office.
- B.C. government raising taxes for high earners, corporations to help pay for $51.9B balanced budget
- Reaction to NDP budget update mainly positive
For the 2017/2018 fiscal year, the government will spend $51.9 billion, nearly $2 billion more than the B.C. Liberals planned to spend in their February budget, which was never passed.
Here are the highlights:
1. MSP premiums cut by 50 per cent
Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, the provincial government will cut Medical Service Plan premiums in half for everyone. Unlike the promise from the previous government, there will be no need to apply for the rebate. The government is also announcing plans to establish an MSP Task Force to eliminate premiums and replace the revenues by 2021.
2. Province $668 million over on fire budget
The government is forecasting fighting fires and the recovery effort will put the province more than $650 million over budget. Part of the cost includes $15 million in new funding to build wildfire infrastructure and $140 million for wildfire prevention and habitat restoration.
3. Eliminating International Business Activity Program
The controversial program, also known as Advantage B.C., will be cut by the provincial government. The program provided a tax incentive for banks and major businesses to invest in British Columbia. Finance Minister Carole James says her government found the millions of dollars being spent was not providing a beneficial return.
4. Increase funding for Residential Tenancy Branch
Currently, it take months for the Residential Tenancy Branch to hear some disputes between landlords and tenants. The province is investing $7 million to fund 30 new staff to address the backlog and reduce wait times for disputes. The new money will also be used to bolster a compliance unit to take action against landlords or tenants who are serious offenders.
5. Boost funding to deal with fentanyl epidemic
The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is receiving its first round of funding. It includes $25 million to crack down on mid-level drug dealers in an attempt to cut off the supply of fentanyl and illicit drugs. An additional $7 million will go to the B.C. Coroners Service to deal with the dramatic increase in overdose deaths over the last year.
6. Carbon tax going up
The government is giving up on the commitment to make the carbon tax revenue neutral. The tax will be going up $5 a tonne on April 1, 2018. The government says additional revenue will go toward projects to cut down on carbon emissions.
7. Individual Tax rate increase
The NDP is fulfilling a campaign promise to increase the individual income tax rate for the top two per cent of earners. The rate for those making over $150,000 of taxable income will be going up from 14.7 per cent to 16.8 per cent. The general corporate income tax rates will go up from 11 per cent to 12 per cent.
8. Building modular homes
In a bid to reduce homelessness, the government is committing $291 million over two years to build 2,000 modular homes. The province is also committing $170 million to operate the facilities, including 24/7 staffing and additional support services.
9. Enhance funding for classroom resources
One of the biggest new investments in the Budget 2017 update is $521 million over three years for classroom supports to fulfill the requirements of the Supreme Court of Canada to restore classroom size and composition to 2002 levels. The province is also funding an additional $50 million to build new classrooms to address overcrowding.
10. Social assistance rates
The NDP is fulfilling an earlier commitment to increase social assistance and disability assistance rates by $100 each a month. At the end of the month, social assistance will be $710/month and a disability assistance cheque will now be $1,133/month.
11. Credit union change
The provincial government is restoring tax benefits for credit unions which will give them $15 million a year for community reinvestment. The tax change will have a higher impact in rural areas where credit unions are often the only financial institution in the community.