BBOT’s 2019 BC Budget Review
Don‘t miss the Burnaby Board of Trade’s special “Breakfast and Discussion with Finance Minister Carole James” on March 1st. Click here for details!
February 19, 2019 — Today, Minister of Finance Carole James released the 2019/20 provincial budget, announcing a balanced budget which featured funding directed towards affordability for families, but little to support affordability for businesses or to drive future economic growth. Overall, the BBOT is pleased that the government is maintaining fiscal balance, and making investments in childcare, families, and housing, but is disappointed more was not done to support companies facing increasing costs of doing business.
Budget Balance and Debt
Budget 2019 projects over $59 billion in provincial revenue, with a surplus after expenditures of $274 million. Further surpluses of $287 and $585 million are forecast for the next two fiscal years as well. This is positive, although important to note that much of the increase in revenue has been through new taxation measures.
As forecast in last year’s budget, Budget 2019 will retire the province’s operating debt—the accumulated debt from all previous government’s operating deficits—for the first time in decades. The Burnaby Board of Trade has long advocated for balancing budgets and paying off operating debt, and is therefore pleased that Budget 2019 has accomplished this.
Taxes and Competitiveness
The provincial government led much of its Budget 2019 material with the reduction and coming elimination of Medical Services Plan premiums. While this will be a significant savings for individuals, there was no acknowledgement that this is being accomplished through the new Employer Health Tax placed on BC businesses. The Burnaby Board of Trade is disappointed that there was no action taken to mitigate the long-term impacts of the Employer Health Tax, or to address the immediate double-taxation facing business this year when $1.9 billion will be raised from employers while the government still collects MSP premiums.
There was little in Budget 2019 to address the rising costs of doing business in BC, a concern raised by BBOT members. From the Employer Health Tax, to the increasing carbon tax, to the mandated increases to the minimum wage, it is getting more expensive for BC businesses to keep the doors open.
Budget 2019 also lacked much in terms of new initiatives to drive economic growth, to stimulate innovation, or to address the ongoing labour shortages facing many in the business community.
CleanBC Plan and Environmental Sustainability
Some details for the CleanBC plan were revealed in Budget 2019, including funding of $902 million over three years for various initiatives. Of that funding, $223 million will be directed to increasing the carbon tax credit for low and middle income individuals. New initiative funding includes $58 million to increase energy efficiency in buildings, $107 million to support adoption of zero-emission vehicles, and $168 million to assist large industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
As part of our triple bottom line focus, the Burnaby Board of Trade prioritizes environmental results as well as economic and social outcomes. As such, we are pleased to see significant funding allocated to CleanBC. We will continue to engage with the provincial government to find ways of including small and medium sized businesses in the CleanBC plan, as the bulk of programs announced focus on residents or large businesses.
Budget 2019 made affordability for families a central focus. In regards to childcare, Budget 2019 continues with the significant funding announced in last year’s budget to build 22,000 child care spaces across the province. As lack of childcare is a major driver of un-affordability in our province, and a barrier to women remaining in/returning to the workforce, the Burnaby Board of Trade and our Women’s Business Success Network is pleased with this continued focus.
A major new initiative launched in Budget 2019 is the BC Child Opportunity Benefit which increases government supports for families with children. Families with one child will, as of October 2020, receive $1,600 a year (up from a maximum of $660 per year) and the benefits will be payable until the child is 18 years old (up from 6 years old).
Budget 2019 also continues with the funding announced in 2018 for housing, $7 billion over 10 years, to build new affordable housing, including funding for 200 more modular homes similar to those being built in Burnaby to address those who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.
For more information on BC Budget 2019