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September 13, 2017, 9:32 am

2017 Province of British Columbia Budget Update Highlights

Union of British Columbia Municipalities

VICTORIA – On September 11th, Finance Minister Carole James tabled an update to Budget 2017. The update projects modest surpluses over the next three years and includes provincial commitments that address several UBCM advocacy priorities, including housing affordability and additional supports for mental health. 

The Province will provide $500 million in new capital investments for housing as follows:

  • $208 million over four years to build 1,700 new units of affordable housing;
  • $291 million over two years to build and $170 million to operate 2,000 new modular housing units for people who are homeless.

$7 million will also be provided for the Residential Tenancy Branch to address the current backlog.

During the lockup, Minister James noted that although housing starts are well above average, with 41,251 annualized units as of July 2017, increased supply alone would not deliver housing affordability. “We’re working on a comprehensive strategy to improve housing affordability, close speculation loopholes, and reduce tax fraud and money laundering in B.C. real estate.”  Minister James said the elements of a new strategy would be delivered later this fall.

Other new measures in the September Update of interest to local government include the following:

Addictions and Mental health

  • $265 million for Ministry of Health to address the fentanyl emergency;
  • $32 million for police (to disrupt the drug supply chain and provide more naloxone training) and the BC Coroners Service; and
  • $25 million to establish the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to develop a seamless, coordinated mental health and addictions system.

Wildfire Response

  • $506 million provided to cover wildfire fighting costs for the 2017 wildfire season
  • $100 million to Canadian Red Cross for emergency services; and
  • $15 million in new capital funding to BC Wildfire Service to upgrade wildfire bases.


Taxation

  • Increase the individual tax rate to 16.8% (up from 14.7%) on taxable income over $150,000.
  • Increasing general corporate income tax rate to 12% from 11%.
  • Elimination of the International Business Activity Program.
  • Small business corporate income tax rate reduced to 2% from 2.5% effective April 1, 2017.
  • Restore tax benefit for credit unions.

Climate Action

  • Carbon tax rates increased by $5 per tonne commencing April 1, 2018;
  • Revenue neutrality will be removed; and
  • Low and middle-income climate action tax credit enhanced.

Economic Development

  • Provide $5 million for:
    • An Innovation Commissioner (to support the tech sector);
    • The Emerging Economy Task Force (to encourage innovative and sustainable industries); and
    • The Fair Wages Commission (to support the move towards a $15 per hour minimum wage).

Services for Children and Families

  • Initial funding to develop a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, including a basic income pilot;
  • $312 million to rebuild the child protection system and respond to the Grand Chief Ed John Report;
  • $20 million for new childcare investments;
  • $15 million to enhance the Healthy Kids program (hearing aids and dental assistance);
  • $114 million to fund income and disability assistance caseloads;
  • $20 million to increase earnings exemptions for social assistance recipients by $200 per month.
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