A new, more generous child benefit for children under 18, funding the CleanBC climate plan and capital investments in infrastructure around the province are positive elements of BC Budget 2019, but more ambitious action is still needed for middle and low income British Columbians, says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office.
The BC Child Opportunity Benefit is the cornerstone of the government’s pending Poverty Reduction Plan and a number of smaller additional measures like eliminating interest from BC student loans and increasing supports for children with special needs and foster children are important. However, BC has the ability to invest more to help the lowest-income British Columbians, including seniors and adults without children.
“Adding $50 a month to welfare and disability assistance rates is welcome, but it’s just not enough. Welfare and disability rates remain thousands of dollars below the poverty line,” said senior economist Iglika Ivanova. “And this budget includes funding for 200 additional modular homes when 7,700 British Columbians are homeless according to the government’s own numbers. We can do much better.”
A substantial increase in capital funding for public hospitals, roads and bridges without using wasteful public-private partnerships is encouraging, Ivanova said.
The government’s fiscal plan for the next three years is positive with surpluses forecast in each year, low provincial debt levels and prudence built in for unforeseen expenses. Indeed, there is ample room in the budget—while remaining prudent—to benefit British Columbians further.
“Reduced taxes for working families and the benefits for families are good news, but with increasing surpluses in each year of the fiscal plan and generous contingency funds, the government could have invested much more in the housing crisis and provided additional funds for the drug overdose crisis that is killing four British Columbians every day,” said economist and public finance analyst Alex Hemingway.
During the provincial election, the government promised to build 114,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years, but more funding is needed to meet that commitment and add enough new rental, social and co-op housing throughout the province, he added, noting that housing should not be viewed primarily as an investment but as a home.
Funding CleanBC is also good news, but there is deep tension in the plan because it has to make room for the large emissions expansion associated with the recently confirmed LNG Canada project. Consequently, emissions reductions in other areas of the economy will have to compensate for this, Hemingway explained.
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