Budget 2017 Highlights

Finance Minister Mike de Jong introduced the 2017 provincial budget on Tuesday, projecting balanced budgets with modest surpluses over three years. Budget 2017 featured increased spending to address the needs of youth with mental health and addiction issues; a reduction in Medical Service Premiums; and a commitment to work with local government to increase housing supply.

New spending commitments of interest to local government include the following:

Housing

  • Over the coming year, the government will explore and implement opportunities to partner and invest with local governments to ensure municipalities have the capacity, incentives and performance targets to expedite the processing, approvals and permitting of housing development applications. This includes:
  • supporting improvements to local government capacity, where needed, to process applications in a more timely way;
  • using incentives to reward jurisdictions for achieving efficiencies and target outcomes in the application, approval and permitting processes; and
  • adopting a performance-based approach in providing provincial assistance.
  • In his comments to media and guests, Minister de Jong acknowledged the increase of housing starts across the province, and Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna in particular. Minister de Jong also indicated that the Ministry would be working with UBCM to discuss options for accelerating the approval process for new development.

Mental Health, Addictions and Youth

  • Budget 2017 provides additional spending targeting mental health and addictions issues for youth, including: $45 million to provide more counselling and treatment for children; $12 million for 28 addiction treatment beds for youth; $9 million to expand early intervention and specialized mental health and substance abuse services; $3 million for expanding the Youth E–Mental Health online/phone coaching; up to $5 million over three years to support mental health initiatives for post-secondary students; and $10 million in 2017/18 to reduce wait lists for substance use treatment services incremental to those provided by the Health Authorities.

Rural Communities

  • $40 million in additional funding will be provided in 2017/18 to support 100% connectivity for British Columbians before 2021.
  • An additional $25 million in annual funding is provided for the Rural Dividend program into 2019/20.
  • A $3000 tax credit will be provided for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers.
  • An additional $5 million per year is being added to community gaming grants. The new funding will be directed to capital projects undertaken by not-for-profit agencies.

First Nations

  • $120 million for family supports and reunification, culturally appropriate services, and additional staff within Indigenous communities that will begin to address the recommendations of the Grand Chief Ed John Report on Indigenous Child Welfare.

Taxation and User Fees

  • Reducing Medical Service Plan Premiums by 50% for households with an annual net income of up to $120,000.
  • The small business income tax rate will be reduced from 2.5% to 2%.
  • The provincial sales tax on electricity purchases for business will be phased out, as recommended by the Commission on Tax Competitiveness. Effective October 1, 2017 the tax rate on electricity will be reduced from 7% to 3.5 %. Effective April 1, 2019 electricity will be fully exempt from PST.  

Infrastructure Funding

  • $40 million is allocated for Clean Water and Wastewater program for 2017/18. UBCM will ascertain the percentage of total program spending represented by this figure.

Environment

  • $36 million in new funding will be provide over three years to support the BC Parks Future Strategy to provide additional park rangers, 1,900 new campsites and a one-time grant to the BC Parks Foundation.
  • $9 million will be provided over three years for implementation of the Forest Carbon Initiative.

Economic Development

  • An additional $10 million in 2017/18 funding will provide an infusion to the Island Coastal Economic Trust. 
  • $6 million will be provided over three years to the Ministry of International Trade to support three new trade and investment offices in Southeast Asia, specifically in Jakarta, Manila, and Johor Bahru in Malaysia.

Community Safety

  • The government will invest an additional $23 million over the next three years for the Province’s expanded Guns and Gangs Strategy.

Social Services

  • The Government will provide an addition $199 million to fund a $600 per year increase to income assistance for persons with disabilities; $175 million to provide income assistance supports; $135 million over three years for community living services; and
  • $20 million to support the creation of 2,000 new childcare spaces.

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