British Columbia

Reaction to NDP budget update mainly positive

Advocates applaud new spending for those with disabilities, education and housing, while others worry higher taxes for some could hurt B.C.'s future prosperity and credit rating.

New social spending applauded while others worry higher taxes for some could hurt province's future prosperity

After being described as a mini-budget for B.C., several stakeholders in the province said they were surprised with the amount of NDP and Green initiatives in what was a reworking of the B.C. Liberal budget from February. (Simon Charland-Faucher/CBC)

The B.C. budget update delivered by Finance Minister Carole James is being well received by most stakeholders with an increase in social spending, tax increases for some but tax breaks for others.

For the 2017/2018 fiscal plan, 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.

Most notably, the NDP's power-sharing partners, the three MLAS from the B.C. Green Party say they're thrilled with the financial plan and will support it.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberals as official opposition criticized the plan saying it would not create jobs or ensure prosperity in the province.

"If you are going to invest in programs, we have to find ways to grow the economy," said Shirley Bond, the MLA for Prince George-Valemount and former jobs minister.

Some in the business community are concerned about an increase in the corporate tax rate, up to 12 from 11 per cent.

People earning more than $150,000 a year will now face a personal income tax rate of 16.8 per cent up from 14.7 per cent.

Jock Finlayson, with the Business Council of British Columbia, said the higher rates could push talented people out of British Columbia or keep them from coming, especially combined with tax reform expected from Ottawa.

Meanwhile, he and others were supportive of a tax cut for small businesses and a promise to remove PST from electricity for businesses.

"It's a good news for small business," said Richard Truscott with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business who added he was surprised to see the measures, part of the Liberal's budget in February, retained by the NDP.

The Canadian TaxPayers Federation's biggest dig on the budget is that revenue from the carbon tax will now not be revenue neutral.

"It will just become another slush fund," said Kris Sims, the B.C. representative with the taxpayers federation.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade did not assign a grade to the budget because it was an update but said questions about its numbers remain.

"Many expensive promises remain, however, without a clear indication as to where that money will come from," it said in a statement.

Missing from Monday's budget were key campaign promises such as $10-a-day daycare, a $400 renters rebate, money for provincial parks, a freeze or roll-back on ferry routes and a $1000 completion grant for college and university students to name a few from their election campaign platform.

The board also said it's concerned the province could face a downgrade to its credit rating should the NDP's plan falter due to economic challenges.

"The impact will be hundreds of millions of dollars being committed to interest rate payments, instead of services or tax reductions," it said.

Meanwhile, for groups that represent teachers, workers, those with disabilities and the homeless, the budget is a welcome sign.

"[The budget] initiatives, along with the overall focus on putting people first, on tackling poverty and affordability and on building a better province where everyone belongs is a very welcome message for people who have been without hope for far too long," said Inclusion B.C. executive director Faith Bodnar.