The provincial government released the 2017 budget on Tuesday saying that it “delivers the dividends of a strong and diversified economy and prudent fiscal management by cutting costs for middle-class B.C. families.”
However, NDP MP Claire Trevena said she doesn’t think the average family is going to see any changes.
“It is not going to help people who are struggling day to day who are looking at the cost of housing,” she said.
“I hear from people many times who make that choice of do I put food on the table or do I pay my hydro bill?
“This is a budget that is designed to put a gloss on the last 16 years of Liberal government, make it seem like they may be doing something but it is business as usual, favouring their friends and not looking after the real needs of this province.”
The 2017 Budget promises a 50 per cent cut to MSP premiums on Jan. 1, 2018 and claims it will be the first step to eliminating the premiums all together. Trevena wasn’t impressed with this promise.
“They put up MSP in January, they turn around in February and say next January we are going to half it but at the moment you are going to pay your increased premiums.”
The budget also promises an increase of $740 million to fund K-12 education over the next three years, which includes $228 million to fund enrolment growth, rural education enhancement, student transportation, salaries and funds for the Learning Improvement Fund.
Trevena, though not critical of an investment in education, pointed out that the supreme court forced the government’s hand to invest in education in a decision back in November.
The budget includes a three-year increase of $4.2 billion to the Ministry of Health which includes funding to support the government’s $100-million, three year enhancement in services addressing mental health and substance use issues, particularly in youth.
The budget also provides additional funding to support those families, individuals and children most in need including $287 million to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, $120 million of which is to begin addressing the recommendations from the report of indigenous child welfare, as well as $199 million to fund an increase in income assistance rates for persons with disabilities and $135 million for community living services.
Trevena feels that missing from these supports is an increase to income assistance, which hasn’t changed in 11 years, she said. And there is no mention of funding for residential care or home care.
“There is no mention about seniors, and seniors care is an issue right across the province, there is no question,” she said.
To address the housing availability and affordability issues, the government committed $920 million to “support the creation of over 5,300 affordable housing units.”
The BC HOME partnership program, launched last month, will provide more than $700 million in repayable down payment assistance over the next three years and the threshold for the first-time homebuyer’s program will be increased to $500,000.
But Trevena doesn’t think that is enough to address the crisis in the lower mainland or support families looking to buy or rent at a fair price on the North Island.
“There is nothing that is really going to help people with that,” she said, adding she feels the budget overall shows that “the government is clearly hoping that the people will forget the last 16 years and just accept that everything is rosy.”