Budget 2019: Five B.C.-focused measures you may not have noticed
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has tabled an election year budget with major incentives for home buyers, seniors and job seekers.
Many of those measures which will apply nationally, such as measures that will directly affect British Columbians like skills training programs and enhanced guaranteed income supplement for low-income.
But what’s in the budget that will directly impact he province of B.C.?
Here are five B.C.-focused budget measures you may not have noticed, plus one that wasn’t there — but is worth watching for.
WATCH: 2019 Budget breakdown
Expert panel on housing supply
Tuesday’s federal budget’s big housing priority was a new program aimed at helping first-time home buyers get into the market.
However, it was far from the only housing measure in the document, including one in particular aimed at British Columbia.
The budget dedicates $4 million in funding over two years for a new Expert Panel on the Future of Housing Supply.
The panel was announced last Friday as a collaboration with the B.C. government, and will “consult with stakeholders to identify and evaluate measures that could build on recent investments and initiatives to increase the supply of housing in British Columbia to meet demand,” according to the budget.
The panel will be made up of “leaders and specialists” in several fields relevant to the housing market, and will be jointly appointed by the provincial and federal government later this year.
The budget also funds an additional $5 million to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation over two years “for state-of-the-art housing supply modelling and related data collection” to support the panel’s work.
WATCH: What does the federal budget mean for you?
High-risk audit teams
Budget 2019 includes $50 million over five years for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to crack down on real estate tax evasion.
The money is earmarked to set up four “dedicated residential and commercial real estate audit teams in high-risk regions, notably in British Columbia and Ontario.”
The teams will focus on ensuring that taxpayers report sales of their principal residences on their tax returns and that any capital gains derived from the sale of real estate is properly identified.
The teams will also work to ensure income generated form real estate flipping is taxed, as are real estate commissions and GST.
The budget forecasts that for its $50 million investment, Ottawa will generate $68 million in additional tax revenue.
WATCH: Federal Budget 2019: Morneau says they’re still working towards balancing the budget
Focus on financial crime
Budget 2019 contains significant measures aimed at combating money laundering, including more money for the RCMP, a money laundering centre of expertise and the creation of an “ACE Team” to coordinate between different enforcement agencies.
But there are also pledges to focus the spotlight of such efforts on B.C., which has been the epicentre of money laundering concerns in Canada.
Budget 2019 pledges to “expand” the outreach of Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTAC), the agency charged with addressing financial crime and money laundering, “in the real estate and casino sectors with a particular focus on the province of British Columbia.”
It also says the federal government has established a joint working group with B.C. “to examine issues related to tax fraud and money laundering in British Columbia and the Metro Vancouver region.”
The budget says part of the government’s efforts to monitor financial crime will now be informed by new data collected through B.C.’s controversial Speculation and Vacancy Tax, which will now be shared with the federal government.
Additionally, the budget contains $1 million over two years for Statistics Canada for a needs assessment to help streamline data sharing between federal and provincial governments to enforce tax compliance and anti-money laundering. Results of that assessment would be used to inform the working group.
WATCH: Federal Budget 2019: Morneau argues housing incentives won’t inflate market
The research centre hosting the world’s largest cyclotron particle accelerator, located at the University of British Columbia, will get a hefty infusion of new federal cash.
The TRIUMF particle accelerator centre performs sub-atomic physic research and has played a role in key innovations in medical imaging of diseases, the production of medical isotopes, drug development cancer therapy and clinical imaging.
The budget proposes $195.9 million for the facility over five years, beginning in 2020-2021.
WATCH: Finance minister circumvents opposition’s attempts to stall budget
Indigenous fire and natural disaster response
It won’t flow just to B.C., but the 2019 budget directly cites the 2018 B.C. wildfires as the impetus for new natural disaster and preparation funding for Canada’s Indigenous communities.
“In the context of the 2018 British Columbia wildfires, First Nations experienced both the largest number of wildfire emergencies and the largest number of evacuations since data first became available in 2009,” states the budget.
“Indigenous communities, 80 per cent of which are located in forested areas, are particularly vulnerable to the wildfires, which burn on average 2.3 million hectares of land per year across Canada.”
In response Ottawa is providing $211 million over five years starting in 2019 to support increased resiliency and emergency management on-reserve.
It also funds $48 million over four years starting in 2020-2021 to fund on-reserve infrastructure projects to protect Indigenous communities from climate-related hazards.
WATCH: Federal Budget 2019: Liberals announce new clean energy incentives
Metro Vancouver transit?
One thing political watchers and transit buffs may have noticed absent from the budget was big ticket investment in transit infrastructure in B.C.
The mayors of Vancouver and Surrey are currently lobbying the federal government for financial commitments to support the extension of a planned Broadway subway to UBC, and the completion of a planned SkyTrain extension in Surrey all the way to Langley.
Extending the planned subway from Arbutus Street to UBC is expected to cost between $3 billion and $4 billion, while completing the proposed Surrey SkyTrain is estimated to cost at least $1.3 billion more than currently funded for the project.
Budget 2019 does include a $2.2 billion top up to municipalities through the federal Gas Tax Fund for short-term priorities, with public transit as an eligible category.
However, the budget also reveals that just just under $20 billion of the $95.6 billion over 12 years in new infrastructure spending laid out in budgets 2016 and 2017 has been committed, acknowledging that “the pace of spending under the Investing in Canada Plan has been slower than originally anticipated.”
With a federal election slated for next fall, that leaves Ottawa plenty of spending room to make big ticket transit infrastructure promises closer to the campaign.
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