British Columbia·B.C. BUDGET

B.C. Budget 2015: Wishlist for public education, child poverty, healthcare

Budget Day is a chance to dream for many organizations across B.C., and although the government has already lowered expectations for today's budget, many are still putting together wish lists.

What would be on your wishlist?

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong will table the 2015 provincial budget Tuesday afternoon in Victoria. (CBC)

Budget Day is a chance to dream for many organizations across B.C., and although the government has already lowered expectations for today's budget, many are still putting together wish lists.

Here are three wishes for the B.C. budget:

1. Additional $1,000 funding per student

"My wish is that we see sufficient funding to allow school boards to maintain operations without further cuts to our already stripped-down schools," said Marlene Rodgers, a parent and co-founder of Protect Public Education Now, a group that advocates for sustainable funding to public education.

Rodgers wants to see an additional $1,000 per student commitment from the provincial government. That amount, she says, would bring B.C.'s per-student funding on par with the national average.

"We would no longer have the shameful ranking of the second lowest in Canada," she said.

"I would also like to see capital funds earmarked for seismic upgrading, school construction and maintenance, so that these essential costs are not eroding the resources available for learning."

Finance Minister Mike De Jong hasn't said much about education leading up to the budget except that there may be some money to fund the teacher's contract signed in the fall. 

2. Investing in home and community health services for seniors

The province should invest in home support for seniors so that they can age with dignity, says Edith McHattie, co-chair of the B.C. Health Coalition

"One of my wishes for the 2015 Budget in B.C. is that we want to see the province is serious about reducing costs by investing in home and community care services that help keep people out of expensive hospital beds," she said. 

3. Substantial investment in child poverty reduction

Child poverty advocate Adrienne Montani is hopeful that today's budget will include increased income assistance rates for single parents using child support as well as a higher minimum wage.

Montani, who is the provincial coordinator of First Call, says B.C. has a child poverty crisis — 21 per cent of children in the province are poor and a staggering 50 per cent of children in lone-parent families are living below the poverty line. 

"This has huge consequences for their health and development and for the future of our province," she said. 

"First Call is looking for this year's budget to contain a substantial investment in child poverty reduction and healthy child development through a new plan for quality, affordable child care, policy changes that stop the clawback of child support from single parents on income assistance, increased income assistance rates and a higher minimum wage."

De Jong has indicated there will also be some help for lower-income families, but NDP finance critic Carol James is not so optimistic.

"I expect we'll see once again a budget that will nickel and dime families with extra fees and costs that we known are there, from MSP to ferry fares to hyrdo rates," she said. 

James added she expects the government to give a tax break to the highest income earners.

The budget will be delivered in Victoria around 1:45 p.m. this afternoon.

What would be on your wish list for the B.C. budget? Tell us in the comments.

With files from Richard Zussman


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