VICTORIA, B.C. – The BC NDP government’s 2023 Budget acknowledges the current challenges in British Columbia but fails to shape a better future for British Columbians.
“It takes courage to make lasting changes that support people over the long term, not just cheque by cheque,” said Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the BC Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley. “This premier’s first budget makes some good investments but keeps British Columbians dependent on once-a-year tax credits from the government, instead of actually making the cost of living more manageable.
“Premier Eby seems to be sprinkling money around to a lot of existing programs and spending big on affordability cheques, but we're not going to solve the underlying issues that are driving big problems. What an opportunity this premier had; he could have made this moment a reshaping of the future, like his predecessor Dave Barrett 50 years ago.
“We were disappointed to see no major investments in community health centres, public transit, preventive mental healthcare, climate, or the environment, help for small businesses, or significant improvements to social services and supports.
“We are pleased to finally see free contraception - which we have been calling for since 2020 - expanded food programs for children, Indigenous Guardian programs, investment in cancer care, and a carbon tax increase. We are especially pleased to see this government invest in expanding the Red Fish Health Centre model, and hope that this signals better investments into mental health and addictions care going forward.
The following key areas were lacking in Budget 2023:
- Primary care - This budget saw no investment in team-based care like community health centres, which are widely recognized as a solution to our primary care crisis. This budget fails to recognize that we need all healthcare hands on deck, including midwives, physician assistants, psychologists, and other healthcare practitioners - expanding the use of nurse practitioners - who could be working in a sustainable team-based healthcare delivery model.
- Mental health - Expanding mental health services across the province is crucial and duplicating the model of Red Fish Healing Centre is an excellent step. However, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this budget had no investment into preventive mental healthcare like bringing psychologists under MSP or hiring more school psychologists or counselors.
- Public transit - This budget had next to nothing in the way of expanding BC Transit, with no spending on building intra-regional transit to connect our communities outside of the Lower Mainland or Greater Victoria. Transit investments should be directly tied to increases in carbon taxes, because they will result in higher gas prices. True leadership would be to prioritize public transportation that would address both climate action and community resilience.
- Restoration economy - This budget provides tax exemptions to large emitters and continues to rely on revenues from the oil and gas sector. The budget only invests $300 million in capital funding to repair infrastructure damaged by climate emergencies, when climate emergencies in 2021 cost the province $17 billion. This government makes climate change a contingency budget item, not the focus. It tinkers around the edges by investing in Forest Services Roads and BC Parks and Recreation sites when it could have invested in the future, in a restoration economy that benefits ecosystems and communities for generations to come. There appears to be no new financing for conversation financing or old-growth deferrals. This is a huge, missed opportunity.
- Housing - This government says the right words, but the investments don’t match the scale of the crises. It’s essential to invest in affordable housing near major transit corridors. We are happy to see investments in housing solutions for students, low-income renters, seniors, and unhoused people. While we are hopeful with these investments, we have yet to see this government deliver on their previous promises to build affordable housing.
- Well-being - This budget focused on a one-off tax credit instead of investing in a strong, future-minded social safety net. These temporary rebates are a waste of an opportunity for this government to build out a well-being budget providing a blanket of security that builds out affordability, lifts more children out of poverty, and makes sure that people’s health needs are met. The $125 monthly increase to income supports for persons with disabilities leaves a giant gap from the $2,200 monthly amount requested by the federal government.
- Small Business - Budget 2023 had no relief for small businesses, like an increase in the threshold for the Employer Health Tax (EHT). Small and medium business owners are facing rising costs day over day, including inflation and rising EI and CPP premiums, yet Budget 2023 had no new support that acknowledges these increasing pressures. With a recession on the horizon, small business owners are not confident in what the future holds, and this budget did nothing to safeguard their investments.
“Making life more affordable for British Columbians must include people with disabilities and those living with low incomes. This means government must immediately remove policies that discriminate against people with disabilities, like those that claw back funds because people are sharing accommodation in a housing crisis. This doesn't happen for non-disabled people, and it shouldn't happen for disabled people.
“Our communities feel safe and connected when there is a social safety net. This means major investments in public transit, community health care, protecting our natural resources, and ensuring everyone has a home. As we have seen in New Zealand, Scotland, and France, it is possible to put well-being at the centre of decision-making. With courage, we can do the same in British Columbia.
“A budget is an opportunity to set a new direction for the people of this province, one that leaves British Columbians feeling supported and safe in challenging times. The BC NDP have a massive majority government that can take risks. At the end of David Eby’s premiership, what will be different? This is not a legacy budget.”