Expanded child care, affordability key in Tuesday's budget: Carole James
Finance Minister Carole James says the 2019 budget will be balanced and focus on affordability, with a key piece being expansion of a provincial affordable child care strategy.
At a photo opportunity at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, James was joined by family and friends. She said a key goal of the budget is focusing on affordability. The minister noted the billions of dollars poured into housing and child care affordability. She said Tuesday’s budget will be building on that.
“We want to make sure that families have hope that they’re not just living paycheque to paycheque, that they actually have an opportunity to build a life here in British Columbia,” she told reporters. The budget will be the second full budget delivered by the NDP minority government. James says it will be balanced.
Child care investments
The minister also claims she’s hearing from families that current investments in child care are saving them money. The Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative saves eligible families up to $350 a month per child. The minister says 80 per cent of spaces in the province are currently offering the discounted rate. But the program rollout was plagued with issues.
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Several pilot projects are also underway where families are paying $10 a day for child care. Based on how well they work, the minister said, expand the program to be expanded.
“We will be doing an evaluation of those to make sure they work for families,” said James. “We will be looking at how we expand the program over seven to 10 years.”
A new poll for CTV by Research Co. shows housing affordability remains a top concern for families. The government’s throne speech offered little in the way of details in terms of new spending to address the issue. Instead, focusing on work already been done. One specific goal mentioned was to speed up project development permits.
“Government’s actions are cooling B.C.’s housing market and helping people,” said the throne speech. A slowing market would also mean less income from property transfer taxes. Historically, real-estate related activity has made up just under 20 per cent of the province’s GDP. How a slowing market would impact revenues is something to watch for.
In last year’s budget, the province helped plug a $1.3-billion hole in ICBC’s budget. The public insurer’s financial situation was called a “dumpster fire” by the attorney general. This year, it is on track to lose another $1.1 billion.
BC Hydro is also in trouble for its use of deferral accounts. That’s basically a line of credit to be paid off in the future. They’re estimated at more than $5 billion in terms of liability to ratepayers. It’s something the government addressed last year and we expect to see addressed in this budget.
Carole James said we can also expect more investments in things like the poverty reduction plan, to address wildfire prevention and to rebates to help British Columbians transition to cleaner energy sources to help meet climate change targets.
Most finance ministers show off a new pair of shoes on budget day and the finance minister said, she will too.
“I managed to get two pair of shoes for the price of one in sales in January I haven’t decided which ones I will wear for the budget yet but you can be guaranteed they will be very practical shoes,” she said.