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Highlight from the B.C. NDP government’s first budget

Highlight from the B.C. NDP government’s first budget
British Columbia - British Columbia Liberal Party - Canada - Donald Smith1st Baron Strathcona And Mount Royal - GDP - Liberal Party Of Canada - Manitoba - NDP - New Democratic Party - Vancouver
September 11

British Columbia's new NDP government has tabled its first budget as it begins to shift the direction of the province, imposing new taxes on the wealthy and corporations while pledging to spend more on social programs, housing and the ongoing fentanyl crisis. But the budget was cast as an incremental update, since it comes in the middle of a fiscal year that was interrupted by an election and a confidence vote in the legislature, which defeated the previous BC Liberal government. Many of the New Democrats' signature policies in areas such as housing and childcare are either sparsely mentioned or entirely absent. Read more: B.C. NDP's first budget begins remake of province but puts off most expensive promises Story continues below advertisement Here's what you need to know about what's in the budget, what's not, and what the fiscal plan says about where the NDP government is heading. What has changed The NDP have used a budget that was tabled, but never passed, by the Liberal government in February as a starting point, but there are some notable changes. Overall, the new government expects to bring in about $1.6-billion more in revenues than first projected, while spending about $1.7-billion more. That added spending includes more than $500-million in firefighting costs in what was the worst fire season in recorded history. In the end, the surplus is expected to be fairly close: $246-million compared with the $295-million projected by the Liberals. The economy The government expects B.C.'s economy to be near the top of the country in terms of GDP growth, which the province predicts will be 2.9 per cent this year and 2.1 per cent in 2018. The economy has performed far better than expected so far this year, which meant the province ended the 2016-17 fiscal year with a $2.7-billion surplus – about 10 times higher than initially projected. That performance is expected to continue, but the large surplus is not. B.C. continues to have among the lowest unemployment rates in the country, with a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.1 per cent in August – second only to Manitoba Taxes The NDP government is pressing ahead with tax increases on the province's wealthiest residents and corporations. The budget restores a separate tax bracket for incomes over $150,000, with a rate of 16.8 per cent, up from 14.7. That is expected to bring in $32-million in the current year and more than $200-million next year. Corporate taxes will also increase to 12 per cent, from 11 per cent. The government expects that change to bring in $103-million in the current year and more than $300-million in the first full fiscal year in 2018-19 Story continues below advertisement Daycare The NDP's most significant – and expensive – election promise was a $10-per-day childcare system that could eventually cost $1.5-billion annually. It would take a decade to fully implement, the New Democrats warned, but the money would begin flowing almost immediately. The party's platform promised to spend $175-million in the 2017-18 fiscal year. But the budget includes none of that spending this year and does not forecast what the program will cost as it comes online in the coming years. The government says only that it will begin consultations this fall on a universal, affordable childcare program. Children at the Strathcona Community Centre take part in an after-school program in Vancouver. John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail Health and the opioid crisis B.C. is the only province to charge citizens directly for the cost of their health care with premiums of up to $900 for a single person and $1,800 for families. The BC Liberals promised to cut those premiums in half for most people starting on Jan. 1 of next year, and the NDP's budget maintains that – with some important changes. The Liberals' February budget restricted the premium cut to families earning less than $120,000 a year and required anyone eligible for the discount to apply. The new budget says the cut will apply to everyone, regardless of income, and it will be automatic. The government says that will save a single person $450 per year, while couples and families will save $900 each year. The government says it will eliminate the premiums altogether over the next four years, but the details of exactly when that will happen, and how it will be funded, have yet to be figured out. The budget also includes more than $60-million this year as the province continues to struggle with the overdose crisis, which killed nearly 1,000 people in the province last year and continues to worsen.

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