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Unions happy but mixed reviews for first NDP budget

Last Updated Sep 11, 2017 at 7:23 pm PST

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130, Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Unions and government employees have welcomed the NDP budget, but there are concerns from others that it doesn’t go far enough,

UBC Professor Tsur Somerville, an expert on affordable housing and real estate development, says this budget doesn’t adequately address BC’s housing issues.

“It seems like a drop in the bucket on overall affordability. The spots for the homeless is important because those are the people who most suffer from situations in the housing market, but relative to the campaign promises, it’s pretty light,” he says.

Business community reaction 

The BC Chamber of Commerce is pleased to see a balanced budget, but is warning about a potential cumulative effect to BC’s strong tax competitiveness when viewed in relation to recent federal tax changes. The Chamber has welcomed the removal of the Provincial Sales Tax on electricity bills for businesses, and the government’s decision to restore small business tax benefit for credit unions.

But President Val Litwin says the upcoming increase to corporate tax rates and the carbon tax add another layer of uncertainty at a time of upcoming federal tax changes that will impact overall tax competitiveness that is needed for a strong economy.

“While we applaud the provincial government’s focus on some targeted small business tax relief – the overall tax competitiveness for BC is facing uncertainty through tax measures at both the provincial and federal level.” said Litwin. “With higher spending and increased taxpayer supported debt that could impact our AAA credit rating, ensuring tax competitiveness that gives our business owners’ confidence to invest is made more of a necessity in the years ahead.

Richard Truscott with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says overall, it’s a pretty good budget for small business.

“We’re pleased to see that the measures introduced by the previous government to help small business have survived,” he says.

“The one thing we’re quite concerned about, however, is the elimination of the revenue neutrality principle for the carbon tax. That means we’ll be taking billions of dollars out of the economy and not recycling, or refunding it back into the economy but putting that money into government coffers. That’s something that does concern us.”

Unions happy with budget update

The BC Federation of Labour has welcomed the budget, saying it brings relief for working families.

“Finally we see a government ready to invest in vital public services,” BCFED President Irene Lanzinger says. “After 16 years of underfunding and neglect, this budget takes the first steps to address the affordability crisis and support working families.”

The BC Government and Service Employees’ Union is unsurprisingly pleased to see public staffing levels increasing by more than 600 positions.

“For the first time in years, issues like child protection, community health and home support, poverty reduction, mental health and addictions have seen renewed attention and investment,” BCGEU president Stephanie Smith says.

Kris Sims with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is worried about BC’s carbon taxes going up $5 per tonne next spring.

“They were supposed to be revenue neutral before. Previous BC Liberal government documents, you can see that it’s going to things like a film tax credit, it’s going towards pay for certain things. Now, it’s just going to be a regular tax stream.”

Sims says she’s happy medical service premiums will be cut in half this year and the provincial sales tax is being eliminated from electricity bills linked to industry.

Healthcare groups pleased to see spending up

Healthcare spending is up and that’s good news to the Hospital Employees’ Union.

Jennifer Whiteside with the union says she’s pleased to see plans for affordable drug coverage, and investments to improve seniors’ care.

There’s also $322 million for what the government is calling a “comprehensive response” to the fentanyl overdose epidemic.

“That’s very important, very overdue. So that will be very welcome news for folks, healthcare workers who are addressing that crisis out on the frontlines.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Bev Gutray is excited for the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions but says it needs strong coordination with other ministries.

“This budget is promising, I’m really looking forward to the next budget to be quite frank, because that’s where we need to see the investment in prevention and early intervention.”