Selina Robinson
(Finance Minister Selina Robinson/BC Government Flickr)

BC Finance Minister, Selina Robinson, released the provincial budget for 2021 on Tuesday, April 20th.

The BC government outlined its first pandemic budget, as it attempts to strike a balance between measures to combat COVID-19 and future economic growth.

The government initially projected a deficit of $13.6 billion for 2020-21; however, higher-than-expected revenues brought the deficit down to $8.1 billion.

In today’s budget update, the government promised to focus on the recovery of the province, with new investments in health and mental health services, business support, affordable housing and child care, keeping life affordable for families, and record levels of job-creating community infrastructure.

“We know a recovery won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on the things that matter most to people, we can ensure there are better days ahead for everyone,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance.

Below are a few highlights of British Columbia’s 2020-21 budget:

Health:

  • $900 million in new funding for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and the vaccination rollout
  • $7.8 billion to support new major construction projects and upgrading of health facilities, medical and diagnostic equipment and technology systems
  • $20 million will provide additional health and safety grants to child-care providers

Economy:

  • Free transportation for children under 12
  • $50 million for businesses through the Circuit Breaker Business Recovery Grants
  • $6 million more to support arts and culture organization recovery
  • $100 million to support tourism recovery
  • $20 million for community destination development grants
  • Extension of the BC Recovery Benefit and the Child Opportunity Benefit to families
  • $32 million to continue training launched through the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan

Indigenous Reconciliation:

  • $60 million in annual funding to the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

Mental Health and Disability:

  • A record $500 million invested into mental health initiatives
  • $175 a month increase to income and disability assistance rates

The official Opposition’s response:

The Liberal Party of BC criticized budget cuts to health authorities and school districts, as well as the lack of immediate funding for a new hospital in Surrey and the lack of comprehensive funding for the economy right now.

“All you need to know about the NDP’s priorities is that the Minister of Jobs – the one in charge of economic recovery – saw his budget cut,” said Mike Bernier, BC Liberal Critic for Finance.

“The recovery grant funding is from last May, which illustrates just how incompetent they’ve been. They’ve abandoned their commitment to affordability. There’s no new support for individuals who are struggling to pay their bills, the $400 annual renters’ rebate has disappeared, and they’ve actually cut funding to school districts.”

Green Party of BC’s response:

The BC Green Party criticized the lack of funding for preventative mental health services and a plan to tackle the housing market, including the affordability crisis that is “gripping cities and towns across BC.”

The Green Party also attacked the lack of transparency towards the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel and the lack of ambitious climate action.

“I welcome the much-needed investments in Budget 2021 in areas like health care and supporting people and businesses through COVID-19, but I had been hoping to see a far more ambitious agenda from this government,” said B.C. Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley.

“This is the time to recognize the pivotal moment we are in, when we can pair our recovery from COVID-19 with a transformative plan that ensures a green and just future for BC.”

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