B.C. budget 2018: top 8 things to look for
The BC NDP government will introduce its first provincial budget since 2001 on Tuesday afternoon.
One of the biggest challenges will be meeting people’s high expectations. Here are eight items to look for in the budget:
A two-per-cent tax on speculative real estate investment in B.C. was a signature promise by the NDP in the 2017 election platform.
Finance Minister Carole James has alluded to bringing in the new tax as part of the province’s suite of policies to address housing affordability. The speculation tax would likely target homebuyers who are using properties as investments and not living in them.
“We see the results of speculation in all parts of our province — distorted markets, sky-high prices and empty homes,” read the Speech from the Throne. “Too many British Columbians are paying the price.”
Child care spaces
When B.C.’s finance minister did her traditional pre-budget press conference on Monday, she did it at a daycare.
That alone is a pretty significant sign that the government plans to invest heavily in child care support for parents in Tuesday’s budget.
The government will not introduce a $10-a-day child care plan (that’s a 10-year plan) but will have immediate financial support for parents.
“This really is a program for today. It is a program for British Columbia. It will be a program that fits the needs parents, communities and businesses today,” James said.
“People, that really is the theme.”
It was the most expensive fire season in B.C.’s history, costing the province more than half a billion dollars.
With wildfires becoming the new reality in the province, the BC NDP will need to account for a fire season that was more expensive than the province had budgeted for, and provide more money in the budget for possible fires in the coming years.
Eliminate interest on student loans
The province has already pitched in $10 million toward the goal of eliminating interest on student loans and providing every post-secondary student a $1,000 completion grant once they graduate.
“I would like to recap what we did the first 16 days we were in government, we reduced interest on provincial student loans by 2.5 per cent and it came with a $10 million commitment,” said Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark.
“We are going to get there.”
One of the first things the BC NDP did in government was cut Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums in half, a promise that the previous Liberal government made but did not put in place before the election.
The new government has promised to eliminate the premiums before the end of its mandate, which means further reductions to MSP could come in Tuesday’s budget.
Legal marijuana is coming and now the B.C. government has to pay for it. Expect money in the upcoming budget for enforcement and education around legalizing the recreational use of the drug.
School playground funding
Education will take up a big part of the budget.
That means more money for teachers to address class size and composition rules, new seismic upgrades and funding to build schools to phase out portable.
The B.C. government has promised to fund 50 new seismic projects over the next 18 months. On top of that, the province has also promised funding for a playground capital fund, which would take away the need for parents and advisory councils to fundraise for school playgrounds.
Health care spending
It may not be flashy, but the most expensive item in Tuesday’s budget will be health care.
Routinely, spending on health care jumps $500 million per year and 2018 isn’t expected to be any different.
The BC NDP has promised to reduce surgical wait times, fund family urgent care centres and, on top of that, build new hospitals. Of all the things that can be predicted in a budget, one thing is for sure, health care will cost lots of money.
WATCH: It’s B.C. budget day and reporters from all over the province are currently in lockup. Our Richard Zussman shows us what that means.
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