There may be 4,300 kilometres between Ottawa and Victoria, but that didn’t stop British Columbia from getting pretty close to a fully checked off wish list from the 2018 federal budget.
B.C. Finance Minister Carole James says British Columbia’s priorities echo a lot of the same priorities laid out by her federal counterpart Bill Morneau on Tuesday.
The federal government has committed $1.25 billion over three years to increase the amount of loans available through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative. But where the budget falls short for British Columbia is tangible details on where and when housing units will be built.
“We will want to see details on a number of areas. Just to begin with housing for example, we were happy to see the federal government make a commitment to rentals,” said B.C. Finance Minister Carole James. “I’m optimistic about an opportunity to partner with the federal government to bring those resources to British Columbia to match up.”
James says that both levels of government get a “bang for our buck” when they team up for projects like housing and childcare. One of the additional concerns of housing is the money committed in last year’s housing plan is backloaded and won’t arrive in communities for a few years.
The federal government focused the budget primarily on gender issues, making a pitch for gender equality and providing five weeks of paid paternity leave to take the pressure off moms to handle the primary parenting responsibilities.
“I was glad to see a number of priorities for British Columbia reflected gender equality, they did mention housing, the opioid crisis,” added James.
Opioid crisis funding coming
On the opioid crisis, the federal government is planning to invest $231.4 million over five years in fighting the crisis. The biggest share of that, $150 million, is a one-time emergency investment to improve access to treatment programs.
“It’s very good news for British Columbia,” said B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. “We need more resources in British Columbia. It is leading the way in the country in the number of deaths and both in our overdose response.”
On top of that, funding will help border-guards better detect incoming shipments of fentanyl and improving public health data on the opioid crisis, though it doesn’t give specifics on either of those measures.
Money for legalized marijuana education
Marijuana is expected to be legalized this summer but the federal government has wavered on the specific date.
The federal government will keep one-quarter of the revenue from the excise tax and the provinces will get the rest. However, if the federal government’s share is more than $100 million a year, the provinces will get the excess.
To help cover some of the implementation costs, the federal government is putting $62.5 million over five years for education. However, there is no money for enforcement.
“There is money for education and I think that is a good thing. I didn’t see a lot in terms of the drug-impaired driving issue and for additional training or additional resources in that regard. I am a bit disappointed in that,” said B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.
The federal government also confirmed a previous commitment to combat guns and gangs. But Farnworth says the federal government should distribute that money based on need, not on a per capita basis.