Bud­get up­date in­vests in a strong econ­omy

The Miracle - - Front Page - By Ca­role James Min­is­ter of Fi­nance

I tabled my first bud­get up­date as Fi­nance Min­is­ter. It’s a bud­get up­date that carves a path to­ward eco­nomic growth by in­vest­ing in our great­est re­source—peo­ple. Since I was elected in 2005, I’ve seen the ef­fects of gov­ern­ment choices that didn’t fo­cus on mak­ing peo­ple’s lives bet­ter. I’ve heard from fam­i­lies strug­gling, in­di­vid­u­als de­nied sup­ports and ser­vices when they need them, and busi­nesses un­able find enough staff be­cause peo­ple don’t have the nec­es­sary train­ing or can’t af­ford to live in their com­mu­ni­ties. With our bud­get up­date, gov­ern­ment is mak­ing the choice to put peo­ple first. A bud­get should ben­e­fit all peo­ple, not just a few at the top. That means we’re tak­ing the first steps to make life more af­ford­able for peo­ple, pro­vide them with ser­vices they need, and en­sure our sus­tain­able econ­omy works for everyone. Hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity is an is­sue across our prov­ince. That’s why we’ve in­vested in the con­struc­tion of more than 1,700 new units of af­ford­able rental hous­ing across B.C. and an­other 2,000 mod­u­lar hous­ing units and sup­ports for peo­ple who are home­less. This helps ad­dress some ur­gent hous­ing needs while we partner with all lev­els of gov­ern­ment to de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive hous­ing strat­egy. We’re also tak­ing first steps to as­sist those on in­come as­sis­tance and dis­abil­ity as­sis­tance by in­creas­ing as­sis­tance by $100 per month and in­creas­ing earn­ings ex­emp­tions by $200 per month. We’re mov­ing for­ward with new in­vest­ments to in­crease spend­ing on early child­hood de­vel­op­ment and child care to $330 mil­lion this year and sup­port more than 4,000 new child care spa­ces. We’re also work­ing to­wards fully elim­i­nat­ing the Med­i­cal Ser­vices Plan pre­mi­ums within four years, start­ing with a 50 per cent re­duc­tion Jan­uary 1, 2018 to save in­di­vid­u­als up to $450 per year and fam­i­lies up to $900 per year. While we find ways to make life af­ford­able for peo­ple, we’re go­ing to re­build and strengthen the ser­vices peo­ple count on. This bud­get in­vests in class­rooms with $681 mil­lion over three years for smaller classes, in­creased re­sources, and more sup­ports for chil­dren, in­clud­ing hir­ing ap­prox­i­mately 3,500 teach­ers. We’re also pro­vid­ing $50 mil­lion in cap­i­tal fund­ing to ad­dress space re­quire­ments for kids go­ing back to school. This in­vest­ment will go di­rectly to fund the fu­ture of our prov­ince by pro­vid­ing our school sys­tem with the re­sources it needs to help kids suc­ceed. To pro­vide im­me­di­ate help for the pres­sures in our health sys­tem, we’re in­vest­ing an ad­di­tional $603 mil­lion over three years in the Min­istry of Health. That in­cludes $265 mil­lion to ad­dress the fen­tanyl emer­gency and $25 mil­lion to es­tab­lish a new Min­istry of Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tions to de­velop a seam­less, co­or­di­nated men­tal health and ad­dic­tions sys­tem. When you in­vest in peo­ple, you’re in­vest­ing in a good econ­omy. For ex­am­ple, we’ve re­stored free English Lan­guage Learn­ing and Adult Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses. All adults can now en­rol in ap­proved post-sec­ondary and K–12 cour­ses with­out hav­ing to pay tu­ition. The ben­e­fits are ob­vi­ous, be­cause when peo­ple can grow their skills, they can fur­ther con­trib­ute to our econ­omy. While in­vest­ing in peo­ple, we’re also look­ing for ways to help B.C.’s econ­omy con­tinue to grow. We’re start­ing with an In­no­va­tion Com­mis­sioner who will be both ad­vo­cate and am­bas­sador for B.C.’s tech­nol­ogy sec­tor. We’re also es­tab­lish­ing an Emerg­ing Econ­omy Task Force to de­velop “made-inB.C. so­lu­tions” to growth in the 21st cen­tury. This bud­get up­date sup­ports much-needed eco­nomic growth in small and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing restor­ing the tax ben­e­fit for credit unions and mak­ing it per­ma­nent. To help small busi­nesses thrive, we’re low­er­ing the small busi­ness cor­po­rate in­come tax rate from 2.5 per cent to 2 per cent. We’re also phas­ing out PST on elec­tric­ity for busi­nesses to give them the dol­lars to in­vest in new tech­nolo­gies and cre­ate more jobs while sup­port­ing in­dus­try to tran­si­tion to less car­bon-in­ten­sive en­ergy sources. With this Bud­get Up­date 2017, gov­ern­ment has be­gun to lay the foun­da­tion for a bet­ter B.C. We’re putting peo­ple first by im­prov­ing the ser­vices they need and mak­ing their lives more af­ford­able while sup­port­ing a strong, sus­tain­able econ­omy that pro­vides good jobs across our prov­ince.

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