Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A year and more of COVID-19 challenges and campaign promises to keep ... makes for deficits in the billions for the next four years or more

British Columbia Finance Minister Selina Robinson
hands over the volumes of financial planning that made
for the 2021 NDP government Budget

The British Columbia government has spent and spent and spent its way in response to COVID-19 and today after delivering their much anticipated post majority government Budget for 2021, Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlined how the spending taps will continue to flow.

The NDP Government of John Horgan set to continue its financial response to COVID and to continue on with a progressive agenda of governance, with housing, child care and health themes all among the highlights from the Finance Minister's near thirty minute address.

“Through the adversity we have faced in the last year, we have witnessed the resilience of British Columbians time and again as communities rose to the challenge of COVID-19. As we continue to roll out the largest vaccination effort in our province’s history, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. 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.” -- Selina Robinson, BC Minister of Finance

The spending plan will see a deficit of 8.3 billion dollars for this year and a projected 9.6 billion for 2021/22, further down the financial road, the NDP forecasts a  $5.5 billion deficit in 2022-23 and $4.3 billion for 2023-24, making for the largest deficit in provincial history.

It's a financial account that could take up to nine years to balance.

More focused at the moment on the spending side rather than the accounts payable ledger, the government made note of the initiatives directed to the pandemic today:

Continuation of funding for the BC Recovery Benefit, which has helped over 2.5 million British Columbians to date and provides up to $1,000 to families and single parents, and up to $500 for individuals. 

Supporting the resilience of B.C. businesses with a suite of grants and funding, some already introduced in response to urgent needs, to help businesses adapt and grow. 

Helping ensure tourism businesses and communities make it through the pandemic and are ready to thrive when visitors can safely return.

Among some of the non-COVID related elements were:

The introduction of Free public transportation for children 12 years and under. 

A of doubling the number of $10-a-day child care spaces, and a doubling the wage enhancement for early childhood 

Creation of 400 more spaces through the Aboriginal Head Start program that provides culturally relevant child care for Indigenous families 

There was good news for British Columbia's 80,000 low-income seniors with an increase to the Senior’s Supplement for the first time ever. 

And towards housing issues, the province announced its intetion to build  9,000 new homes for middle-income families with $2 billion in development financing.

As well the funding parade continued with focus on environmental and investment themes.

That with initiatives for reducing emissions, protecting communities, expanding the economy and creating careers through an additional $506 million in CleanBC investments. 

Making annual funding permanent to improve connectivity across B.C. 

Helping high-potential businesses grow in B.C. through funding provided by InBC, a new $500-million strategic investment fund that will deliver economic, environmental and social returns.

Education and Employment also had a strong focus from today's Budget speech.

The Finance minister outlined that the plan is to create over 85,000 jobs and to  communities around B.C. with record infrastructure investments – an increase of $3.5 billion in this budget. 

Government programs will be used to help thousands of people find new jobs in sectors like health care through investments in post-secondary education and skills training programs.

As well the government will work to ensure that  more than 5,000 young people land jobs, internships and co-ops through the StrongerBC Future Leaders program, and 3,000 students benefit from new work integrated learning placements.

As the Finance Minister delivered her speech, the government information office was releasing a statement on today's financial plans; accompanying that was as a slate of additional background information on the spending plans with some extensive detail on what's coming through the next few years,

It's an archive which you can review here.

The Minister's Full address to the Legislature can be viewed below:

 For more notes on themes from the BC Legislature see our archive page here

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