BC’s new budget will set the stage for the May 9th provincial election.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the 50 billion dollar document is the 5th straight balanced budget for the Liberal government.
He say it will leave nearly $1 billion more in the pockets of B.C. families by cutting Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums as a first step to eliminating them entirely as it becomes affordable.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, MSP premiums will be reduced by 50% for households with an annual net income of up to $120,000.
“Following this change, more than two million British Columbians will pay no premiums and a further two million will see a 50% reduction in their premiums – cutting premiums near to levels set in 1993,” says de Jong. “A typical family of four paying full premiums will save $900 per year in 2018. A single parent with net income up to $40,000 and two children will see their monthly premiums drop from $46 to $23. A family with net income less than $35,000 and two children will see their monthly premiums eliminated.”
The budget also promises to eliminate the PST on electricity over the coming two years – saving small, medium, large and industrial businesses throughout the province $164 million by 2019-20, and to cut the small business corporate income tax rate to 2% from 2.5%.
De Jong says the education budget will increase by $740 million over three years, including an extra $320 million to pay for more teachers tied to the Supreme Court ruling on class size and composition.
The Ministry of Health will see a three-year increase of $4.2 billion, compared to its 2016-17 base budget.
The minister says a surplus of 295 million dollars is forecast for the coming year.
The NDP says the Liberals attempt to make voters “Forget Everything” prior to the May election is cold comfort to people after a decade and a half of neglect.
Leader John Horgan says the Clark government is are using its cash surplus to make people forget there’s a deficit in the services they care about.
“She wants people to forget that she hit them with endless hikes to Medical Services Plan premiums, rising hydro bills, skyrocketing housing costs, a crisis in child care affordability, and the worst wage growth in Canada.
“She wants people to forget that her government doubled MSP premiums and only now, on the eve of an election, she promises to reverse that damage,” adds Horgan.
Vernon Monashee Liberal MLA Eric Foster says the Opposition will never be happy with anything the Liberals do.
“We are able to do this because we have surpluses and we’ve balanced our budget, and the Opposition doesn’t like that. They’ve opposed everything we’ve done,” Foster tells Kiss FM.
Foster says cutting MSP premiums will have a far bigger impact than reducing the provincial sales tax by one percent, which is another direction the government could have taken.
“This one has the great positive effect on the most people,” says Foster.
Foster says the reduction won’t start until January is all about “the way the books work.”
“There is a lot to it. All the folks that have it as part of their collective bargaining, it all has to be worked out.”
The BC Federation of Labour says the budget offered a number of election goodies for voters — but nothing to invest in vital public services that have been cut over the last 16 years.
“While services for people have been cut to the bone for the last 16 years, the rich and powerful have done very well,” says BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger. “It reflects the choices Premier Clark and the Liberals have made—and whose side they’re on.”
The BC Teachers Fed says it’s an admission that the government has been shortchanging schools and students for 15 years.
“All of the funding increases announced today are because this government has been forced by the courts, by demographics, and by public anger to finally respond to their record of underfunding our schools and students,” says BCTF president Glen Hansman. “This budget is an admission that when it comes to education funding, the government has had it wrong all along. Fifteen years ago, they put tax cuts before kids. Students, parents, teachers, and support staff were forced to pay the price.”
The Wilderness Committee is upset the budget provides nothing more than what it calls band-aid solutions for two of the most pressing issues facing BC: the environment and climate change.