Sunday, April 21, 2024

Here are 12 things to know about British Columbia’s Budget 2024

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The annual Provincial budget is the blueprint for spending the government tries to adhere to throughout the fiscal year, which ends on March 31st. 

On Thursday, February 22nd, the BC NDP government brought their Budget 2024 forward, outlining their plans leading up to the next provincial election which is slated for October. 

The ‘budget day’ legislative assembly meeting began with a land acknowledgement, followed by a motion to present the Budget 2024 from Katrine Conroy, BC’s Minister of Finance. 

Then Conroy dove into her speech presenting the budget to the room, and to BC as a whole via livestream. 

She called the budget, one that will rise to the occasion of meeting today’s challenges and one that will provide more opportunities to British Columbians.  

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us. Though we are starting from a place of strength,” said Conroy. 

She spoke to the fact that when the BC government raises its minimum wage, some people always speak out against it, thinking that it will hurt job numbers, but that is reportedly not the case. 

BC has one of the highest minimum wages in all of Canada. 

Conroy also noted some other financial success stories that have taken place under the BC NDP’s watch, including a massive amount of women in the workforce, affordable and accessible childcare, the mostly Indigenous-owned Cedar LNG plant and more. 

Here’s 12 things to know about Budget 2024:

  • The deficit – The Provincial Deficit is set to rise by around $2 billion. Last year it was at $5.9 billion and it is predicted to go up to 7.9 billion this year, before coming down marginally in the next two budgets.
  • Spending – Where the deficit will rise by $2 billion, spending this year is set to increase by nearly $4 billion. The Budget 2024 calls for around $18.8 billion in spending, most of which is taxpayer-supported. 
  • BC Family Benefit –  Beginning in July, a one-year bonus will be delivered to those who are eligible, due to a $248 million investment to aid with the cost-of-living. With the 25% boost, on average, families will receive $445 more per year.
  • BC Electricity Affordability Credit – In April, BC households will see around $100 in savings on their electricity bill and this benefit will continue every month for 12 months.
  • More homes – Between Homes for People and BC Builds, the Province’s two initiatives to get homes built faster and easier, there is a considerable amount of money the government is trying to put towards more housing for low and middle income families. 
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) coverage) – It was announced along with the budget that beginning sometime in 2025, IVF will become more accessible through public funding; however, specifics have yet to be revealed. 
  • Strengthening services – Conroy promised no cuts were to be made to essential services that British Columbians rely on, including mental and physical health care, senior care centres, cancer care, access to family law centres and more. 
  • Cleaner economy – The Province says they are working toward having British Columbians switch to using heat pumps rather than natural gas or oil to heat their homes and will be providing additional incentives in the next year to help sway those who are waiting for an affordable way to do so. 
  • Emergency response – after a few years of devastating wildfires, flooding and damages from atmospheric rivers, the Province is putting a large sum of money toward preemptive action to try and reduce the impacts of these climate change related emergencies. 
  • Capital spending – Money will continue to be funnelled toward improving BC’s transportation, health, housing and education sectors and over the next three years, they have allotted over $43 billion to be put toward upgrading the province’s infrastructure. 
  • BC’s economic outlook – Last year, BC’s economy only grew by 1%, in part due to rising interest rates and inflation. In 2024, it is expected to slow even more to just 0.8% growth. However, the Province is hopeful that the economy will grow by 2.3% in 2025 after one more year of bouncing back.
  • Risks to the Budget 2024 – there are three risks according to the Province:
    • The degree to which prices are kept under pressure
    • Weaker global economic activity and ongoing geopolitical conflicts which impact BC
    • Changes of the Province’s timeline in their projects which would fast-track or delay spending

In conclusion, the BC government says their budget is meant to be investing in a better life for all, with a focus on easing burdens caused by the current cost-of-living, providing better healthcare by getting more doctors into the province and building more homes faster.

The BC Green Party called this budget a “smoke and mirrors” one. 

“This budget is disappointingly familiar, it lacks innovation and forward-thinking initiatives,” said Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the BC Green Party and MLA for Cowichan Valley. 

“This government has demonstrated it’s not interested in creating a livable world for our children. Instead, they are telling British Columbians to fend for themselves.”

More specific details on these aspects of Budget 2024 will be provided as they become announced in the coming months.

mm
Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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