BC’s new government has presented its first budget, keying on the promise to help make life more affordable for British Columbians.
It includes a made-in-BC child-care plan, a comprehensive housing plan and record levels of capital investment across the province.
An investment of more than $1 billion will create 22,000 new childcare spaces, which will have to meet rigorous quality and safety standards – and will make childcare more affordable.
Another $1.6 billion will be invested over three years to build and maintain affordable rental housing, help finance student housing, and increase rental assistance for low-income seniors and working families.
The budget introduces new taxation measures around housing to tackle speculation and tax fraud, and to stabilize housing prices. The foreign home-buyer tax has been increased to 20 per cent and will be extended beyond Metro Vancouver to include the Fraser Valley, the Capital Regional District, Nanaimo Regional District and Central Okanagan.
I frankly am disappointed the lower Sunshine Coast was not included. The spillover of questionable foreign investment that has been forced out of the Lower Mainland might easily extend to our riding, pushing prices up here. The Finance Minister is open to including other areas and I will ask for a reconsideration.
That aside, the budget provides more welcome news for Powell River and Sunshine Coast residents.
Also, as promised, ferry fares will be reduced by 15 per cent on all four of the Sunshine Coast’s ferry routes (including the Powell River-Comox and -Texada runs) while fares will be frozen on all major routes. And once again, Monday-through-Thursday senior passenger fares have been eliminated.
You might have already noticed the 50-per-cent reduction on your first two MSP payments of this year. The government now plans to eliminate the MSP altogether by Jan. 1, 2020.
There are so many savings and other benefits for British Columbians in this budget that there’s not enough room to report them all here. But to include just a few more:
• Hiring more teachers, bringing the total to over 3,700 new hires around the province.
• Increasing funding for legal aid, family law services, and the hiring of more sheriffs and court staff to help reduce court delays.
• Making a historic investment of $50 million this fiscal year to support the revitalization and preservation of indigenous languages in BC.
• Increasing grants administered through the BC Arts Council and Creative BC, which support BC’s vibrant communities and creative economy.