2016 Federal Budget: Housing, transit promises highlight what B.C. will get

The federal government is set to lay out its 2016 budget. The Liberal election platform was filled with promises that could benefit B.C., including transit and housing funding.

British Columbians should expect increase in infrastructure spending, but not all at once

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau will be presenting the federal budget on Tuesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is getting set to roll out its first federal budget on Tuesday, which will include a deficit projected somewhere around $30 billion.

With that budget will come a lot of spending to fulfil election promises, many of which were made here in B.C.

When Trudeau kicked off his election campaign in British Columbia last August he sent a clear message the province was important to him. Now Trudeau's government has the chance to prove how important with the federal chequebook.

1. Building and renovating new houses

It may not be splashy, but the Liberals are going to start by fixing up social housing that already exists. Many of the units have not been retrofitted for more than 30 years. 

"There will not be a lot of ribbon cuttings for new projects in the short term," said University of Victoria political scientist Michael Prince.

Instead, Prince says it will be about putting money into existing stock.

Prince thinks the federal government will also bolster the Homelessness Partnering Strategy. Right now the fund accounts for about $105 million a year in spending. Prince says that could double or triple in size.

2. Co-op funding

Many of Metro Vancouver's residents living in co-operatives are on shaky ground. The leases with the federal government are getting closer to running out. 

The Liberals committed in the election to help better support thousands of British Columbians living in co-ops. Expect a boost in the federal budget to reinstate funding for co-op housing subsidies.  

3. Transit funding

Transit was one of the biggest commitments from the federal government. The expectation is they are to change the payment structure to fund major transit projects. In the past the feds, the province and the municipalities have each covered one third of the costs.

But don't expect all the money now. The federal government does have a four-year mandate, so major projects like the Broadway SkyTrain line and Surrey LRT will get funding, but likely not right away.

"I think that the LRT will really shape the way the city grows in the future," says Surrey city councillor Vera LeFranc. "It's critical. It's time for Surrey to get some additional rapid transit."

4. Green infrastructure

The Trudeau government has committed $20 billion to green infrastructure. Part of that money will no doubt go to transit, but there also could be a boost in the federal budget for companies in B.C. that are focused on green technology.

The province has also focused heavily on an electricity intertie between B.C. and Alberta. Funding for that project will likely not come in this year's budget but could be on the way down the road.

5. Retirement benefits

Trudeau confirmed last week that the eligibility age for old age security will be lowered back to 65 years old from 67. That should have an impact in British Columbia, where 16 per cent of the population is over the age of 65, making B.C. the oldest province on average west of Quebec.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake had also asked the federal government to reconsider health transfers, factoring in average age over population. But that doesn't seem to be on the table for this year.


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