Provincial government cuts taxes
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
On February 21, the BC Liberals announced their provincial budget. The budget was the province’s fifth consecutive balanced budget.
The budget focuses on reducing costs to the general public, especially surrounding healthcare, education, and for those who live below the poverty line.
Arguably the most noteworthy feature of the budget is one that will affect most British Columbians. Should the BC Liberals hold onto power after the May election, Medical Service Plan (MSP) premium costs will be cut in half for households earning under $120,o00 annually. This will affect two million British Columbians, even those who already have much of their MSP covered by work insurance plans, although they will not notice as much of a change. BC families of four can expect to save $900 annually with the price cut. There is also discussion that MSP premiums could be eliminated entirely in the future, but that remains uncertain.
Another cost that will be cut in half is hydro for businesses, municipal buildings, hospitals, and schools. Currently, businesses pay a seven per cent PST on hydro. However, the budget dictates that the PST will be dropped to 3.5 per cent on October 1 of this year.
Small businesses will also receive a 2–2.5 per cent decrease in their taxes.
Students, whether they are in elementary school or post-secondary, will see some benefits from this budget. As of August of this year, post-secondary students will only be paying prime on their student loans, as opposed to prime plus 2.5 per cent. K–12 schools will be receiving $320 million in funding over the next three years. It is unknown how the money will be spent in schools prior to a court-ordered plan by the Supreme Court of Canada, after they ruled in favour of the BC Federation of Teachers in regards to classroom size and composition.
The condition of child welfare has long been condemned in the province, with a high number of children living in homes that cannot earn a living wage. The Ministry of Children and Family Development is receiving $344 million from the province. Within that, $120 million will be delegated towards Indigenous child welfare, $45 million will go towards mental health services, and $12 million will go towards treating addicted youth.Families will be better able to access childcare services, with $20 million going toward the creation of 2,000 new daycare spaces.
The new BC budget does benefit a wide array of residents, but many critics are saying that it is too little, too late. Others have pointed out that none of these programs will start until after the election, making it appear that the BC Liberals are presenting their budget promises in exchange for re-election.
“The only reason Christy Clark is doing this […] is because she wants to hold on to her job,” BC NDP leader John Horgan said to the Vancouver Sun. “We’ll be putting our platform together and I’ll be very excited to lay it out before the public, because we’re going to make different choices.”