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12 things you need to know about B.C.’s 2020 budget

Finance Minister Carole James speaks to reporters and stakeholders before introducing the 2020 provincial budget. Richard Zussman/Global News

The B.C. government has introduced its 2020 Budget. Here are some of the highlights:

BC Child Opportunity Benefit: Launching in October, the new B.C. Child Opportunity benefit will be available to 290,000 families in the province. Families with one child will be eligible to receive up to $1,600 annually. For two children it goes up to $2,600. The measure was first announced in budget 2019.

BC Access Grant: The province is introducing a “new needs-based” grant for low- to middle-income post-secondary students. An estimated 40,000 students will be eligible for up to $4,000 a year for programs under two years in length and up to $1,000 a year for programs two years and over. This is the first time part-time students will be eligible for the grant.

READ MORE: 2020 budget projects ICBC finally out of deficit

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Shelter Spaces and Supportive Homes: The province will be building two “navigation centres” providing shelter and medical services, and to help clients find housing placements and other social services. The province has not decided the locations yet and will be working with local governments.

Sugar Tax: The province will start charging PST on “sweetened carbonated drinks.” The sugar tax will in essence make soft drinks seven per cent more expensive for British Columbians. The province is projecting the tax will bring in $27 million this year and $37 million next year. The new tax comes into effect on July 1, part way through the fiscal year.

New Tax Bracket: The B.C. government is once again targeting the richest British Columbians. The province is increasing the tax rate for people earning $220,000 a year and above. The province says it will still have the third-lowest tax rate for those earning more than $475,000 a year. More than half the additional revenues from the tax will come from those earning more than $1 million a year.

Click to play video: 'Budget 2020: breaking down the new taxes and spending' Budget 2020: breaking down the new taxes and spending
Budget 2020: breaking down the new taxes and spending – Feb 18, 2020

Surgical wait times: Health care once again leads the way in terms of funding. The province is allotting $50 million this year to address wait times. But the Ministry of Health and the health authorities have not yet decided what surgeries to focus on. Starting over the next few months, the province will start looking at the outliers and focus attention on reducing wait times there. Up until now, the government has focused on reducing hip and knee surgery wait times. Currently, 27 per cent of people wait more than 26 weeks for a hip or knee surgery, down from 35 per cent three years ago.

Education funding: Amidst labour tensions between the province and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, the province is allocating $339 million in new funding over the next three years. The money is for hiring 4,200 new teachers and increasing enrollment but the new funding does not provide more for wages for existing teachers beyond the province’s negotiated mandate of wage increases at two per cent a year.

READ MORE: B.C. budget 2020 includes tax increases on top income earners, pop drinkers

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Electric Vehicles: Increases are coming to the Climate Action Tax Credit, with an additional $20 million earmarked to make electric vehicles more affordable. Currently, nine per cent of all new vehicles purchased in B.C. are electric, putting the province ahead of its target of 10 per cent by 2025. The program will continue to provide up to $3,000 in credit for a new electric vehicle purchase.

Wildfire funding: The 2019 fire season was small in comparison to the provincial states of emergency declared in 2017 and 2018 but even so the province has dedicated additional funding to fire management, increasing the budget by $35 million up to $136 million a year.

Click to play video: 'Budget 2020: charging PST on sweetened carbonated beverages' Budget 2020: charging PST on sweetened carbonated beverages
Budget 2020: charging PST on sweetened carbonated beverages – Feb 18, 2020

Money Laundering Public Inquiry Funding: The province’s money laundering public inquiry is well underway with Commissioner Austin Cullen at the helm. But the work to find who is to blame for money laundering in casinos, the housing market and the luxury car industry costs money. The province is allocating $11 million to fund the inquiry, which will make recommendations on the extent, growth, evolution and methods of money laundering.

Cracking down on illegal pot sales: The province will allocate $12 million for resources to ensure compliance and enforcement of illegal pot sales. Legal pot sale revenues were at $6 million this year and are projected to go to $50 million next year and $70 million the year after.

Hurting Forestry Sector: The province is now projecting the industry to bring in $867 million in revenues in 2020/21, way down from the $1.14 billion projected for the period a year ago. In order to provide some support for the hard-hit industry, the province is allocating $13 million in new spending to help with revitalizing the sector.

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