There were far more promises and declarations in this week’s provincial budget that I thought were good than ones I thought were bad…but that also scares me a bit.
Let’s start with what I liked.
I liked that the provincial government will follow through on freezing rates on major BC Ferries routes and even scale them back on minor routes. I also like that they say they are re-implementing the seniors’ discount, enabling them to essentially ride free from Monday to Thursday. Neither of these things will change much for me, personally, but many people depend on the ferry service a whole lot more than I do. And maybe I can get over to Quadra a couple more times per year.
I like that they announced a $1-billion investment in childcare, including a new benefit for parents who have kids in daycare facilities so they can go to work and the addition of more than 24,000 of those spaces. It’s too late for me and my family to take advantage of this money, but I recognize the need to get people back into the workforce as quickly as possible after having a child, and the current rates for childcare and availability of spaces makes that far too prohibitive for many.
And that brings us to what I liked best about the budget: attempting to address the ridiculous housing issues we’re dealing with right now.
Taxing real estate speculators, including locals those who leave their housing vacant and therefore out of the stock available to others, may encourage more people to actually rent out their extra properties. If those properties are on the higher-end scale of the market, maybe it has a trickle-down effect of opening up some units in the next bracket below, and so on down the line. There are many other ideas in the budget intended to stabilize the housing market, as well. These are good things.
Now let’s move on to what I’m worried about.
First, funding these things is expensive.
How can they keep BC Ferries afloat (pun intended) when their costs are sure to continue to rise but their main source of revenue stagnates or drops?
Opening up spaces in childcare facilities requires more early childhood educators, and the lack of opportunities for those people for the last few years has likely discouraged many from taking those programs to become certified. Where should we find all these ECEs when, in some districts, we can’t even staff schools with enough teachers, who require a similar level of education but are paid better and enjoy many more benefits.
And in terms of the housing initiatives, while I think the moves being made will help, I have trouble seeing how they will help immediately, which is when the help is needed.
I guess I’ll say that I’m optimistic that, in general, this was a good budget for the province.
But we’ll see.