“Making Life Better”: NDP Government announces Budget 2019
By Karda Rolland-Berge
February 20, 2019
Kathleen Reid, Switchboard’s Managing Director, attended the BC Provincial budget lock-up earlier today, where Finance Minister Carole James introduced the 2019-2020 budget.
Entitled “Making Life Better” Budget 2019 allocates $58-billion starting April 1 and aims to balance the budget in all three years of the fiscal plan, aiming to accumulate surpluses of $274 in 2019/2020, $287 million in 2020/2021, and $585 million in 2021/2022. As expected, the NDP stayed the course charted by Budget 2018, ensuring balance and affordability are the key priorities in this budget.
We’ve provided the top highlights from each of the four sections of Budget 2019 below.
Making Life More Affordable
For the NDP government, “Making Life Better” equates to affordability for British Columbians struggling to both provide for themselves and their families while juggling the rising cost of services. Budget 2019 tackles affordability with several schemes that arise out of the NDP’s platform in Budget 2018. The Early Childhood Tax Benefit transitions into the BC Child Opportunity Benefit, which will extend the support each child receives from the age of six to eighteen. Following their promise to eliminate MSP premiums in Budget 2018, the government reduced premiums from 50% to 0% in Budget 2019, effective January 2020. Families will also benefit from the Made-in-BC Child Care Plan which invests more than $1.3 billion in child care over three years.
Budget 2019 gives indebted students a huge win – as of February 19, 2019 the BC government has eliminated all interest from British Columbia student loans, ensuring that students working hard to contribute to the economy can afford to do so after graduation.
Building on Budget 2018’s “Homes for BC”, Budget 2019 creates a provincial program that funds community organizations to operate rent banks which will support renters across the province who need immediate, short-term relief to prevent unnecessary eviction. Further, nearly $76 million is allocated to buy more land and build more homes for BC’s homeless.
Delivering Better Services for Your Family
Minister James endeavours to deliver “better, faster health care” by hiring 200 new family practice physicians, 200 more nurse practitioners and 50 more clinical pharmacists. The Budget also allocates funds to support early cancer detection and steps to address the overdose crisis. Over $550 million is provided to schools to expand and meet the needs of growing communities, including an increased investment of $58 million over three years to continue to address class size and composition.
Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
In perhaps the most stunning announcement of Budget 2019, the BC government announced it will share over $3 billion in provincial gaming revenue with First Nations over the next 25 years, with the funding available to every First Nation in British Columbia.
Investing in a Strong, Sustainable Economy that Works for People
Despite the government acknowledging the tech sector as one of the “fastest-growing areas of our economy” and one that is “booming” in Budget 2019, there are few new developments that will directly contribute to this burgeoning sector. There are, however, several economic measures that will support the tech sector’s growth and the ability for companies to scale.
Budget 2019 invests $50 million to expand high-speed internet service to more than 200 communities that are currently without, playing a critical role for local businesses and developers looking to connect with the greater economy.
The BC government will join the federal government in providing more than $800 million reductions in provincial corporate income taxes to enhance business competitiveness. The small business corporate income tax rate will also be cut from 2.5% to 2%, which should be helpful for new businesses and smaller tech companies looking to grow. The government also plans to extend the Provincial Nominee Program tech pilot, which aims to make it easier for companies to recruit top international talent.