VICTORIA — British Columbia’s minority NDP government has released an update of its budget before a full budget is tabled in February. Here are some highlights:
— Carbon tax rate increased by $5 a tonne on April 1, 2018, as climate action tax credit increased for low- and middle-class families but the carbon tax will no longer be revenue neutral.
— $208 million for construction of 1,700 affordable rental housing units.
— $291 million for construction of 2,000 modular housing units for the homeless, with $170 million over three years for round-the-clock staff and support services.
— 50 per cent cut in Medical Services Plan premiums for all British Columbians as a step toward eliminating them over four years.
— Up to 3,500 new teachers; $681 million increase for kindergarten-to-Grade 12 education over three years.
— $100-per-month increase for income and disability assistance.
— $200-a-month increase to earnings exemptions for income and disability assistance recipients to connect to jobs.
— Reduction in small business corporate income tax rate to two per cent, from 2.5 per cent.
— $19 million for restoration of free adult basic education and English-language learning in both the kindergarten- to Grade 12 and post-secondary sectors.
— $15 million over three years for the Healthy Kids Program to provide hearing assistance benefits and improved rates for dental services.
— Personal income tax rate of 16.8 per cent on taxable income over $150,000, up from 14.7 per cent.
— Increase in corporate income tax to 12 per cent, from 11 per cent.
— $290 million for the Health Ministry and to establishment Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in supporting prevention, early intervention and treatment involving illicit opioids and overdoses; $32 million for law enforcement and coroners’ service.
Students and teachers: The government announced $681 million over three years for the education system, including hiring 3,500 teachers and ensuring smaller classrooms. The NDP government is also providing capital funding of $50 million to address space requirements.
Renters and the homeless: An investment of $208 million over four years will support the construction of more than 1,700 new units of affordable rental housing in communities across B.C. Another $291 million will be spent building 2,000 modular supportive housing units for the homeless and $172 million over three years will go toward operating them and providing 24-7 staffing and supports.
Parents: The budget increased provincial funding for early childhood development and child care to $330 million this fiscal year to support up to 4,100 new child care spaces. It did not mention $10-a-day child care, which was a key promise of the NDP campaign, but it said the government will work over the next few months to develop a long-term plan for universal child care.
Small business owners: Sales tax on electricity purchases by businesses is being phased out and the small business corporate income tax rate is being lowered to 2 per cent from 2.5 per cent.
Medical services premium payers: Premiums will be cut by 50 per cent effective Jan. 1, 2018, and the income threshold at which households are fully exempt is increased by $2,000.
Corporate businesses: The general corporate income tax rate will rise to 12 per cent from 11 per cent. Jock Finlayson, B.C. Business Council vice president, said the business community expected the tax changes as they were part of the NDP’s election platform, but “this budget isn’t going to create a lot of new investment.”
High-income earners: The government has increased the individual income tax rate to 16.8 per cent from 14.7 per cent on taxable income over $150,000.
Fossil fuel-dependent businesses and individuals: Starting April 1, 2018, carbon tax rates will increase by $5 per tonne annually until rates are equal to $50 per tonne on April 1, 2021. The requirement that the tax be revenue-neutral will also be removed, allowing the government to spend revenues on measures that reduce emissions.
BC Hydro ratepayers: The NDP promised during its election campaign to freeze BC Hydro rates, a pledge reiterated in the premier’s mandate letter to Energy Minister Michelle Mungall, but there was no mention of a freeze in the budget tabled Monday.
Ferry users: The NDP’s election platform called for the freezing of fares on major routes, a 15 per cent reduction of fares on minor routes and promised that seniors would again travel free again during the week. The commitments were not included in the budget.
The Canadian Press
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