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BC Budget Day: taxpayer goodies, wish lists for education and real estate

Last Updated Feb 21, 2017 at 7:57 am PDT

(Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130 Photo)

BC Liberals expected to table fifth straight balanced budget

A break in taxes promised by Victoria three months ahead of provincial election

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – It’s budget day in British Columbia, and with less than three months before the provincial election, the government is hinting it is ready, willing and able to share some of what’s believed to be a $2.2 billion surplus.

Plenty of goodies and tax cuts are a good bet — including for small business operators — but there is a long line-up for all that cash, which will be the fifth surplus in a row for the BC Liberals.

It has already been announced disability payments will be increased this year, as will things like opioid overdose funding and the money spent on school supply budgets.

However, the head of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation would like to see a lot more funding for classrooms, saying it is long overdue. “It has been many years that BC has been falling behind compared to other provinces in terms of education budget,” points out BCTF president Glen Hansman, acknowledging the province will provide the money to hire hundreds of new teachers after a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

“But there are also sorts of other areas on the capital and operation side that need addressing, too. We have a brand new curriculum in this province in all the subject areas and all grade levels, which has never happened before. There needs to be significant dollars re-invested to help support that,” he tells NEWS 1130.

Hansman would also like to see firm spending commitments for professional development opportunities, seismic upgrading and staffing for special needs students. “Now is not the time for the province to be squandering its surplus on giveaways and freebies. It needs to be reinvesting in public services that British Columbians want and need for our children, for those needing healthcare and for seniors,” he adds.

The high cost of housing has been a recent focus for the government, with the BC Liberals bringing in a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax last summer to try to cool down the market in Metro Vancouver and one housing expert expects today’s BC budget will build on that.

“My best guess would be that there is going to be a step back in the foreign buyers’ tax to allow people on work permits to be exempt. They’ve already made moves in that direction,” says Economist Thomas Davidoff with UBC’s Sauder School of Business. “I think there will possibly be announcements of new social housing projects, and maybe aid to people who rent. I would do less projects and more cash transfers to people who are struggling.”

Davidoff would also like to see cuts to provincial income or sales tax in places struggling with high housing prices, like Victoria and Vancouver.

“[The province] needs to work with municipalities to set higher property tax rates, lower income and sales tax rates, let older people continue to defer property taxes and we would get a much more fair and better-functioning economy.”

The provincial budget is expected to be tabled at 2 p.m. and NEWS 1130 will have full coverage both on-air and online.

Seniors’ expert hopes budget will help ‘sandwich generation’

Seniors groups heading into today’s budget don’t want the government to forget about them.

While everyone is hopeful today’s announcement in Victoria will benefit them in some sort of way, BC’s increasingly aging population has some valid concerns.

“British Columbia is a destination for people who want to retire,” says CEO of the BC Care Providers Association Daniel Fontaine. “We have an older population than other provinces, we have an aging population and they play a critical role in both our economy and health care system.”

Fontaine thinks the new national health accord agreement between the federal government and the province which will see another $780 million in new home and community care investments will make its way towards seniors. “We focus a lot on today in terms of people who are in the economy, but we can’t forget the very people who built the economy over the course of their lifetime.”

Fontaine wants to see the BC Liberals consider a training fund to address to vacancies to assist in senior care, and invest in replacing some of the aging care facilities. He also wants to see the province provide some relief for the overburdened Sandwich Generation, that are overwhelmed by the burden of caring for not only their children but also looking after their elderyl parents.

“Three in ten British Columbians are essentially within that,” says Fontaine. “Only 1 in 10 British Columbias said they were coping well with the balance of needs between taking care of their kids and also elderly parents.”

Fontaine says time and money are the biggest challenges for that group of people which represent almost a third of BC’s population.