British Columbia

B.C. Budget: Provincial budget provides meagre benefits for most, says social policy expert

A professor of social policy says the recently announced provincial budget provides meagre benefits for most British Columbians.

"This is not a smart social policy document," says University of Victoria expert

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

A professor of social policy says the recently announced provincial budget provides meagre benefits for most British Columbians.

"This is not a smart social policy document," said Michael Prince, the Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria.

"In terms of new initiatives, a sense of vision, a sense of excitement as to where this government wants to go, this was a pretty dull budget."

Prince says the budget lacked support for key social issues.

"I think what's surprising is how little there was in terms of economic employment, housing issues," he said.

Education was allocated an additional half a billion dollars, but Prince says that will mostly go towards wage increases that came out of the teachers' strike.

Health care also got a big boost — $3 billion over the next three years — but Prince says that only averages a 2.9 per cent increase per year, which will go towards managing an aging population.

In terms of health care, the government also announced an increase to medical service premiums to $75 per individual.

At the same time, it relinquished an additional tax for British Columbians making more than $150,000 a year.

"The amount of money they're losing by giving up that tax to the upper income, they're raising almost the equivalent amount from medical service premiums going up," said Prince.

Prince says the government is increasingly relying on fees and personal charges instead of increasing income tax.

"The troublesome part about all this is that the fairest way of raising revenue still is personal income tax and corporate income tax," he said.

Budget benefits for British Columbians

There were a few items in the budget that will benefit low and middle-income citizens, according to Prince.

One such item is the $106 million increase to Community Living B.C., which supports adults and children with disabilities.

Another is the early learning tax benefit. It will offer parents $660 a year, or $55 a month, for each child under the age of 6.

Prince was surprised that the finance minister didn't highlight those benefits more.

"That could have offset a lot of attention on the fact that upper-income British Columbians were getting a tax break," he said.

To listen to the full interview with Michael Prince, click on the audio labelled: Social policy analyst decries the provincial budget
 

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