The NDP government just released Budget 2018, but how will it affect residents on the North Coast?
Here’s a Top 10 list of what aspects of the budget may affect Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and other rural community members in northwestern B.C.
“This balanced budget puts the people of British Columbia at its focus. We’re delivering on making life more affordable, bringing back the services people count on and building an economy that supports people in every corner of the province,” said North Coast MLA, Jennifer Rice from Victoria after the budget was announced.
1. BC Ferries
Starting April 1, there will be a 15 per cent fare reduction in the Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii, and Prince Rupert to Port Hardy routes.
Seniors travelling on BC Ferries with daily sailings will travel for free from Monday through Thursday. This will include the Alliford Bay (Sandspit) to Skidegate route. The Prince Rupert to Port Hardy and Prince Rupert to Skidegate routes will not be getting free seniors travel. These routes have a 33 per cent seniors discount and will continue to receive this discount.
2. Child care
Starting April 1 2018, up to 50,000 families will benefit from a new child care fee reduction program. Families with pre-tax incomes of $45,000 and under will receive the full day care benefit. Families that make up to $111,000 will receive a portion of the subsidy.
By 2020, the government predicts that 86,000 families will benefit from the child care benefit with up to $1,250 a month in child care cost relief.
There will be incentives for child care providers to offer child care after typical work hours. Rice said if this is taken up by providers this will help shift workers, such as Prince Rupert’s longshoreman, so they can work all available shifts including the graveyard shift.
The budget also includes creating 22,000 new licensed child care spaces in the province.
3. Indigenous investments
Up to $6 million over three years for Aboriginal Friendship Centres to ensure stable funding.
$50 million to support Indigenous language. “I know this is really important to people in our hometown,” Rice said.
$158 million to partner with Indigenous housing societies to build and support 1,750 units to address housing needs.
$30 million in three years to support Indigenous skills training, to support programs that teach computer literacy and safety training.
Budget 2018 also includes the plan to create an Indigenous Law Program at the University of Victoria.
“Some things people might particularly gravitate toward in Prince Rupert are the investments around seniors care, whether that’s better support when you’re in care as a senior, or support for seniors to stay at home, or the SAFER (Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters) Program, a program to help seniors who are low income to stay at home,” Rice said.
Payments to seniors will increase by an average of $930 per year to help make rent more affordable for more than 35,000 households.
$548 million in three years in health care funding specifically for seniors care.
5. Women and children fleeing violence
$18 million in services for outreach and counselling for women and children affected by violence.
“That includes building more housing units for women and children fleeing domestic abuse,” Rice said.
6. Affordable housing
$1.6 billion for affordable housing over three years — to build 114,000 units in next decade, this includes the units being built in Prince Rupert.
An increase of approximately $800 per year in rental assistance for low-income working families.
Hiring 3,700 new teachers across B.C.
School districts to get $2 billion over three years to upgrade, replace or expand schools. When asked about the Prince Rupert Middle School, a facility Rice has been advocating for, she said: “Right now, we’re on the trajectory for replacement. This something that I check in with all the time with the Ministry of Education and the school board,” Rice said.
8. Medical Services Plan
Starting Jan. 1 2018, Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums were cut in half with savings of $450 per year for individuals and $900 for families.
MSP premiums are to be phased out, and instead the government will impose a payroll tax on businesses. The “employer health tax” will be introduced Jan. 1, 2019 for businesses with an annual B.C. payroll of more than $500,000 a year. The full tax rate will be at 1.95 per cent for businesses with an annual payroll of $1.5 million or more.
Families with net incomes under $45,000 will benefit from reduced deductibles. Deductibles are to be eliminated entirely for families with net incomes between $15,000 and $30,000.
10. Health care
$150 million over three years to provide team-based primary care to people who don’t have a family doctor.
A few other points
Other notable aspects of the budget — the government announced a $30 million increase in financial support for youths who have been aged out of care. This funding will help young people with costs such as groceries, rent and career advice. More than 100,000 people on disability assistance will have free bus passes.
Also, $5 million toward BC Parks to provide 1,900 new campsites and $9 million to hire 20 more Conservation Officers and increase programs to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
Much of the budget promises will roll out in the next three years, and the province has a projected surplus of $219 million.