SURREY — Well, the unions like it. Surrey Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt, not so much.
“Whoa, this is really tax-and-spend,” the MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale said of the NDP’s first provincial budget in 16 years, delivered earlier this week.
“We had a surplus of $2.7 billion, they’re taking that surplus, adding to it $1.6 billion in tax increases, so they’re ending up at over $4 billion of extra money to spend, and so far they haven’t even started spending on like their $10 a day daycare, their renters tax credit, that sort of stuff, so there’s some big-ticket items that they have ahead of them that they haven’t got to yet, and yet they’ve already spend the surplus and are putting in a huge tax increase. So, when they come to deal with their big-ticket items, you just sort of sit there and go, ‘Where are they going to get the money for that from?”
The budget has received accolades from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, among others.
“In just eight weeks, the new government has put together a budget update that provides additional funding for vital public services, takes action to make life less expensive, eliminates an expensive tax cut for the richest British Columbians and commits the government to serious action on the fentanyl overdose crises,” said CUPE BC’s secretary treasurer, Trevor Davies.
But Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said “the bottom line is, it’s a ‘wait-and-see’ budget.”
“We know that a lot of the details are going to come in the February budget, but we were pleased to see investments related to education, MSP, but we did not see anything related to transportation, international trade, revenue creation in terms of a lot of spending, but we’re also for innovative strategies to create revenue. We saw some good social infrastructure announcements related to affordable housing, public safety, so those are all good things.”
The NDP budget will cut Medical Services Plan premiums by 50 per cent, aiming to eliminate it over four years. Income and disability assistance rates will increase by $100 per month and $19 million is earmarked to restore free adult basic education and English language learning.
“After 16 years of neglect from the previous government on issues related to post-secondary education ranging from tuition fees to working conditions to funding, this government has taken the refreshing position of listening to stakeholders,” said George Davison, president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC.
Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC Office, said investments in affordable housing, in particular 2,000 homes for the homeless and $7 million more in funding for the Residential Tenancy Branch, is “very good news.”
Ivanova also said increasing the corporate income tax rate and the personal rate on taxable income for those who earn over $150,000 annually will “improve tax fairness” and generate money for investments in education, poverty reduction, child care, health care and affordable rental housing.
The NDP’s Budget 2017 forecasts a surplus of $246 million in 2017-18.
Highlights include $208 million for construction of 1,700 affordable rental units, $291 million toward construction of 2,000 modular housing units for the homeless, a $681 million increase in public school funding for kindergarten through Grade 12, $322 million earmarked to tackle the fentanyl crisis, $189 million over three years to help improve seniors with improved home and residential care.
David Black, president of MoveUP, a union which represents about 4,700 ICBC workers, noted the budget will increase investment in BC Transit to $185 million in 2019-2020 from $154 million this coming year.
“This will provide more services and transportation options for British Columbians and greater security for many workers,” Black said.