British Columbia

5 things to expect in the 2017 B.C. Budget

The B.C. Liberals are set to introduce their fifth straight surplus budget, Tuesday, Feb. 21. The government is vowing the budget will be aimed at supporting the 'widest group possible.'

Province promising financial relief and spending as part of pre-election budget

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong checks out his resoled shoes in advance of the 2017 Budget. (Richard Zussman/CBC News)

The B.C. government is set to introduce the 2017 provincial budget Tuesday afternoon.

In the last budget update, the government forecast showed a surplus of $2.24 billion, which means it has some money to spend in its final budget before the May 9 provincial election. Here are the main things to expect:

Financial Relief

The government is setting up this pre-election budget as a chance to give back money to British Columbians.

It has said numerous times in the build up to Budget 2017 that it has taken too much money from taxpayers, mainly in property transfer taxes and income taxes and will give some of that back. 

"We are in a position now, unlike any other province in the country, to begin to address priority areas, leave more money in citizens pocket and not incur deficits to do it," said B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong. 

Medical Service Plan Premium changes

The nature of that relief is still a big secret. But what B.C. Premier Christy Clark has made no secret of her belief the current MSP Premium setup is "not very logical."

The province changed the health premium in Budget 2016 by waiving the fee for children and providing more relief for people who make less than $43,000 a year.

It is expected this year will see more changes.

Funding for Children's Ministry

With a budget surplus that is forecast to be more than $2 billion, the government is also in the position to spend.

The province has been under pressure to boost resources at the Ministry of Children and Family Development following a scathing report into the death of Alex Gervais and a report by Grand Chief Ed John that found resources lacking in Indigenous communities. 

Education funding

The province committed $29.4 million Sunday to both public and private schools to pay for school supplies.

But what is unlikely in the budget is an increase in funding to meet the Supreme Court of Canada requirements to restore classrooms to 2002 class size and composition levels.

Those negotiations are still underway.

Disability Assistance Increase

For the second straight year, the province will be increasing disability benefits.

Rates will go up in Budget 2017 from $983 per month to $1,033. But advocates are hoping for more calling the $50 increase "incredibly disappointing."

"I'm hopeful and waiting to what will be in the budget because I can't believe this would be the only thing that's happening this year to address what are incredibly low PWD rates in B.C.," added Inclusion B.C. executive Director Faith Bodnar. 

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