BC Budget 2020 stays the course, missing opportunities to ramp up crucial social and environmental investments

February 18, 2020

VICTORIA — In its third budget, the BC government delivered on the final year of investment commitments set out in its ambitious 2018 budget, but more should have been done for those who need it most, says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

In particular, not increasing welfare or disability rates going into the second year of BC’s first Poverty Reduction Plan is very disappointing say senior economist Iglika Ivanova and public policy analyst Alex Hemingway.

“This is a very cautious budget,” Ivanova says. “We can afford to do more and the need is clear especially in areas like poverty and child care access. For example, almost half the child care spaces promised two years ago must be created this year if the target is to be met, and social assistance rates remain thousands of dollars below the poverty line. That’s worrying.”

Bright points in the budget include the creation of a new tax bracket for the top one per cent of earners, which improves tax fairness and will help address inequality while also raising additional revenue for investments in much-needed areas like housing, child care, public transit, climate change and poverty reduction. The BC Child Opportunity Benefit (launching in October) will also provide families with additional funds.

However, Ivanova says that given BC’s strong economic performance, the province can afford to invest more.

Striving for a balanced budget at all costs, even with interest rates at historic lows, means there are missed opportunities in this budget to further improve lives for the most-in-need British Columbians, says Hemingway.

“The government is maintaining momentum on spending announced in previous budgets for key investments in infrastructure and public services,” he says. “But by putting over a billion dollars into contingency funds, it is leaving money on the table that could be invested in social and environmental priorities.”

Hemingway notes that if BC dedicated the same share of GDP to public spending as we did in 2000, we’d have an additional $7 billion this year to invest.

The housing crisis is affecting people around the province and while the government is fulfilling commitments made in earlier budgets, much more investment in non-market, affordable housing is needed, Hemingway says.

The additional funds budgeted for the CleanBC plan for carbon neutral public facilities is positive, but undermined by the government’s continued focus on LNG development as an economic driver, Hemingway and Ivanova say.

“The government’s investment in CleanBC doesn’t reflect the urgency of the climate crisis,” Hemingway says, explaining that it is essential for BC to start to invest significantly in the transition of the province’s fossil fuel sector.

Another positive investment is the BC Access Grant for post-secondary students that will provide up to $4,000 for upfront costs of tuition for more than 40,000 low- and middle-income students around the province, as well as the highest-level in BC history in capital spending for infrastructure projects like new and upgraded hospitals and health facilities, highway and transit projects and housing, Ivanova says.

To arrange interviews, please contact Jean Kavanagh at 604-802-5729, [email protected]