Finance Minister Carole James shares a laugh with a colleague before delivering the budget speech from the legislative assembly at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 20, 2018. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

James says B.C. budget puts priorities on NDP’s poverty, environment plans

She said she expected the government’s poverty reduction and climate change strategies to be priorities in the budget

British Columbia’s finance minister says the budget she tables Tuesday undertakes development of social, environmental and economic initiatives as other provinces across Canada implement cuts to programs and shifts to the right.

Carole James says her budget builds on the minority New Democrat government’s goals of making life more affordable, improving services and ensuring a sustainable economy.

“I see them as hand in hand,” said James in an interview. “The investments we make in people and the investments we make in environment are investments in a sustainable, strong economy.”

Prof. David Black said he expects the social and economic agenda laid out in James’s budget to contrast sharply with the right-leaning policies in some other provinces.

Manitoba and Ontario have Conservative governments. The Coalition Avenir Quebec government, is essentially conservative, and the Saskatchewan party is right-leaning. Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party in Alberta, meanwhile, is considered the front-runner in this year’s Alberta election, said Black, a political communications expert at Royal Roads University in the Victoria area.

“If the Alberta NDP lose in the spring election that leaves six out of 10 provinces with right-of-centre control,” he said. “It puts a powerful spotlight on B.C. as a place of social democratic governance.”

Black said while many province’s fight the federal carbon tax and cut education and child care, B.C. is spending billions on affordable housing, promising 22,000 child-care places and hiring teachers.

James’s budget is expected to include new funding for the government’s poverty reduction strategy and its Clean BC plan to fight climate change.

Black said the B.C. New Democrats led by Premier John Horgan are on a social building agenda that he labelled “radical pragmatism.”

Rather focusing attention on one issue — the environment, economy, education — the New Democrats are touching numerous social concerns that are building large-scale changes, he said.

“It is a much more humble, circumspect, careful, but nonetheless ambitious program of change,” said Black. “It’s not legislation by thunderbolt. It’s a kind of radical pragmatism.”

James said B.C.’s growing economy allows the government to pursue social, environmental and economic initiatives.

“Certainly all of our economic indicators are very positive,” James said, citing record low jobless rates and solid growth projections. “We’re in a strong economic position. It certainly is my plan to go forward with a balanced budget.”

She said she expected the government’s poverty reduction and climate change strategies to be priorities in the budget.

The government passed legislation last year to cut B.C.’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and the child poverty rate by 50 per cent over the first five years of the plan.

The government’s Clean BC climate plan, introduced last December, is slated to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050. By 2040, all new cars and trucks sold in B.C. will be zero emission and new buildings will be 80 per cent more efficient than now.

“The poverty strategy will be a priority in this upcoming budget along with Clean BC,” said James. “Both of those will certainly have a priority when it comes to budget 2019.”

She said the dollar amounts designated to the poverty and environment plans will be revealed in the budget.

“The comprehensive poverty strategy will look across ministries, across government and at what kind of investments and supports we need to put in place to help people get ahead,” James said.

READ MORE: B.C. government aims to stop concert ticket, payday loan gouging

READ MORE: Opponents, business group pan John Horgan’s throne speech

Iglika Ivanova, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said the poverty strategy needs to address homelessness, income, transit and child care.

“I’m a numbers person,” she said. “Until I see the numbers in the budget and see exactly how much is allocated to each priority, I don’t want to make too much out of promises and rhetoric. I want to see action in a number of different areas. The strategy needs to be comprehensive to be successful.”

The government said in its throne speech on Tuesday that making life more affordable will be the hallmark of its initiatives in the coming months. It promised to tackle cellphone costs, ticket scalpers, money laundering loopholes and poverty.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Slocan Valley to be ‘lit up’ with high-speed internet in 12 months

125 kilometres of fibre-optic cable to be laid from Nakusp to Playmore Junction

LETTERS: In support of student climate strikers

From readers Tia Leschke and Sharon Inkpen

Kootenay Musical Theatre Society ready to make a deal with the Devil

The new group will put on an original show in October at the Capitol Theatre

Nelson councillor starts national municipal climate group

Climate Leadership Caucus has 57 members including seven mayors

RDCK to purchase portion of lands around Cottonwood Lake

21.6 hectares will be purchased for $450,000

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

B.C. fire department offers tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

With wildfire season getting closer, the Penticton Fire Dept. offer tips to keep your home safe

Rural Kootenay communities to receive high-speed internet upgrade

The provincial government is increasing internet connectivity to rural British Columbia

Fierce house cat spotted as ‘aggressor’ in face off with coyote in B.C. backyard

North Vancouver resident Norm Lee captures orange cat versus coyote in backyard showdown

Most Read