10 highlights: Here's a quick summary of B.C.'s 2021-22 budget
VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s latest budget was released Tuesday, with a strong focus on how the province will fund its pandemic recovery in the months ahead.
Primarily due to the COVID-19 crisis, the province is expecting a multi-billion dollar deficit for the previous fiscal year. In her presentation, B.C.’s finance minister outlined recovery spending, health-care investments, child care funding and more.
For those looking for a quick snapshot of the province's budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, here are some of the highlights:
- The province projects a deficit of $8.1 billion for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which is less than the previous prediction of $13.6 billion.
- B.C.’s budget has $3.25 billion in pandemic and recovery contingencies for the year ahead. That includes $900 million for “health-related COVID-19 management,” like vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing, expanded flu immunization and screening for COVID-19 at long-term care homes.
- Kids under the age of 12 will be able to ride transit for free starting in September.
- For the first time ever, B.C. is increasing the seniors’ supplement, which will support 80,000 residents. As well, income and disability assistance will increase by $175 per month.
- The province announced its largest ever investment in mental health services at $500 million over three years. Of that, $330 million will be used for a “full spectrum of substance-use treatment.”
- B.C. is investing $83 million into its parks over the next three years and will add 100 new campsites each year, starting in 2022.
- A renter’s rebate wasn’t announced, but B.C.’s finance minister said it’s an election promise the government is still working towards, adding the current rent freeze will be in place until 2022.
- Smokers will soon have to pay more for tobacco. Starting on July 1, taxes for cigarettes, heated tobacco products and loose tobacco will all increase.
- Child care spaces under B.C.’s $10-a-day program are doubling to 3,750 over the next three years. As well, wages for early childhood educators will be enhanced by $2 an hour, doubling the amount announced in last year’s budget.
- While access to free birth control wasn’t included in this year’s budget, in spite of calls from advocates, policy work is underway and it’s expected contraception will be introduced under the PharmaCare model by next year.