The B.C. Government has tabled its 2021 budget, which it said focuses on protecting people’s health and livelihoods through the pandemic, while supporting a strong recovery.
The Province said Budget 2021 will include investments in health and mental health services, business supports, affordable housing and child care, keeping life affordable, and job-creating community infrastructure.
“Through the adversity we have faced in the last year, we have witnessed the resilience of British Columbians time and again as communities rose to the challenge of COVID-19. As we continue to roll out the largest vaccination effort in our province’s history, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance. “We know a recovery won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on the things that matter most to people, we can ensure there are better days ahead for everyone.”
For health care, the provincial government said it will focus on the following:
- $900 million in new funding for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and vaccine rollout.
- Faster access to surgeries and shorter wait times for diagnostic imaging.
- Better care for seniors, including thousands of new staff in long-term care facilities and improved home care.
- Mental health supports in schools, more Foundry centres, quadrupling the number of integrated child and youth support teams, and expanding the response to the overdose crisis.
- Building hospitals, including the new Surrey hospital and cancer centre, and new urgent and primary care centres in communities around B.C.
- Addressing systemic racism in health care and ensuring Indigenous people have access to culturally appropriate care.
Budget 2021 will also include a number of provisions aimed at benefiting residents and businesses:
- Free public transportation for children 12 years and under.
- Doubling the number of $10-a-day child care spaces, doubling the wage enhancement for early childhood educators, and continuing to build and expand spaces.
- Creating 400 more spaces through the Aboriginal Head Start program that provides culturally relevant child care for Indigenous families.
- Continuing to fund the BC Recovery Benefit.
- Helping 80,000 low-income seniors by increasing the Senior’s Supplement.
- Delivering a permanent increase to income assistance and disability assistance rates with a 53% increase to income assistance since 2017.
- Grants and funding to support B.C. businesses to help businesses adapt and grow.
- Ensuring tourism businesses and communities make it through the pandemic and are ready to thrive when visitors can safely return.
- Improving campgrounds and trails, while adding up to 100 new campsites throughout the province every year, starting in 2022.
The Province also laid out the details regarding its plans to build a strong economic recovery:
- Creating over 85,000 jobs with infrastructure investments, marking a $3.5 billion increase in this budget.
- Investments in post-secondary education and skills training programs.
- Ensuring more than 5,000 young people land jobs, internships and co-ops through the StrongerBC Future Leaders program, and 3,000 students benefit from new work-integrated learning placements.
- 9,000 new homes for middle-income families with $2 billion in development financing.
- Supporting tourism businesses and communities with $120 million, including grants to help prepare for future visitors through new tourism infrastructure like trails and airport improvements.
- Reducing emissions, protecting communities, expanding the economy and creating jobs through an additional $506 million in CleanBC investments.
- Making annual funding permanent to improve connectivity across B.C.
- Helping high-potential businesses grow in B.C. through funding provided by InBC.
“From the time the pandemic hit, we delivered a broad range of supports for British Columbians who were reeling from how quickly all of our lives were turned upside down,” Robinson said. “Budget 2021 is built from everything we have learned in the last year to continue helping people now, while laying the foundation for people and businesses in our province to seize the opportunities that recovery will offer.”
The B.C. Government said the Province’s economy shrunk by 5.3% in 2020, and anticipates 4.4% in growth in 2021, 3.8% in 2022 and 2.2% in 2023.
As well, the Third Quarterly Report projects an operating deficit of $8.1 billion in 2020-21. B.C. forecasts $61 billion in revenue, and $69.1 billion in total expenses.
“Budget 2021’s three-year fiscal plan presents declining deficits, with a $9.7 billion deficit in 2021-22, $5.5 billion in 2022-23 and $4.3 billion in 2023-24,” said the B.C. Government.
More: Budget 2021 (B.C. Government)