On Tuesday, the BC NDPs released their 2023 budget which has a self-proclaimed theme of ‘helping people through challenges now.’
The aim of the new budget is to help British Columbians with the pressures of the economic state of the province and country.
Inflation, a competitive and pricey renter market as well as offering new and improved services are all at the forefront of the BC NDP government’s focus as they buckle down in the legislature this year.
Here are 10 things British Columbians should know about the 2023 budget:
Beginning April 1st, BC will become the first province/territory to make prescription contraception free for all.
The BC NDPs will be investing over $119 million throughout three years to remove the cost associated with prescription contraception — a cost that can range between $75 and $500 per year.
Most oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices, subdermal implants and Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill) will be covered.
For a person who spends $24 per month, this could save them over $10,000 in their lifetime.
A new credit for renters will provide non-homeowners with up to $400 per year beginning in 2024. This credit will be based on income and is meant to help those with moderate to low incomes.
BC’s rental market has never been more competitive or costly to British Columbians with one in three being renters and having Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna all in the top five most expensive cities to rent within Canada.
The province expects this credit will reach up to 80% of renters in BC with those who make $60,000 or less being able to take the full credit.
The credit will be based on 2023 tax returns so it will not reach British Columbians pockets until next year.
Families with children will receive up to a 10% increase in the monthly BC Family Benefit beginning in July. This ends up being an extra $250 in the pockets of a two-parent family throughout the year.
Single parents will receive an extra boost with a $500 top-up annually to help them make ends meet. This ends up being $650 per year or nearly $12,000 over 18 years.
Climate action tax credit
BC is giving back to its residents to aid them in the costs associated with the changing climate and the increases in carbon taxes across the country.
The BC Climate Action Tax Credit will increase as well as the carbon tax in the coming year.
Over 2022, a two-parent family who received $500 via the climate action tax credit will now get nearly $900.
A single person who received $193.50 throughout 2022 will now get $447.
The BC NDPs hope this credit will reach 80% of the province as the income ceiling for the credit will increase annually.
Improved student loans
People pursuing post-secondary or additional training in their field will now have extra support and flexibility in how they access student loans.
Beginning in August, BC the maximum cap for BC student loans will increase to $220 per week for students without dependents and $280 for those with dependents.
The BC NDPs say they will also improve student loans repayment systems.
Also starting in August, those making less than $40,000 per year will not have to make payments on their loans. For those making more than $40,000, payments will be set at 10% of their annual income rather than 20%.
For now, the province plans on keeping BC student loans interest-free, which has been the case since 2019.
Addressing the housing crisis
The BC NDP’s say they want to lay the groundwork for a refreshed housing plan in the province. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people have faced unprecedented struggles in attaining affordability in their housing situation and the budget has a plan sorted out to help curb this struggle.
The province has $2 billion allocated for housing initiatives over the next three years to build thousands of new homes for renters, focussing on those with moderate to low incomes.
The new budget takes students’ needs into consideration as well with $575 million set aside for student housing initiatives.
In order to deal with the growing population in BC, the budget will also focus on new investments that will help reduce rezoning restrictions, enable more multi-unit homes, and create pilot projects by giving financial incentives to homeowners so they can build secondary suites.
Ending homelessness and encampments
To aid houseless people in BC and those living in encampments, the province is making new and renewed investments in many different complex housing strategies and care centres.
The aim is to aid people in dealing with issues that may have led to their being houseless and try to help them get their feet back under them.
The budget allocates $640 million in supportive housing, $169 million for complex-care housing units with $97 million in operating budgets, $228 million in rapid response crisis teams and $44 million for modular housing.
Boosting BC’s healthcare systems
The BC NDP’s say their budget will invest $6.4 million in mental healthcare and physical healthcare over three years.
Their focussing on bringing more qualified doctors and healthcare professionals to the province, improving cancer care, continuing efforts to keep COVID-19 at bay and getting more BC residents family doctors.
A huge part of their healthcare plan is to get more services to those who need assistance with their mental health and substance use. The BC NDP’s are taking a multifaceted approach to this with money allocated for those dealing with these issues in their housing plan and their healthcare plan.
Crime prevention and safety
The 2023 budget plans to improve and expand law enforcement across the province — a $230 million boost will help hire an additional 256 RCMP officers, particularly for rural and Indigenous communities.
Reducing the amount of repeat offenders on the street is also a priority for the BC NDPs. They have two new programs to help achieve this that they’re pouring $87 million into — the new Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative and the new Special Investigation & Targeted Enforcement (SITE) program.
In partnership with many BC First Nations, 10 new Indigenous Justice Centres are opening in the next two years to help Indigenous folks safely and effectively navigate the justice system.
BC’s financial situation
The BC NDP’s budget predicts a revenue of $77 billion through this year with expenses forecasted to be $81.2 billion.
The plan accounts for declining the province’s deficit to $4.1 billion this year and getting it down to $3 billion by 2026.
Taxpayer supported capital spending is predicted to be $37.5 billion, which will go towards emboldening provincial infrastructure such as schools, roads, hospitals and transportation.
The province’s surplus for 2023 is predicted to be $3.7 billion this year, which is lower than anticipated due to some additional spending. The surplus will be directly invested back into supports and services British Columbians need, according to the province.
With all that said, which announcement do you think is the most important? Let us know in the comments below.