I’d like to share with you my thoughts as I reviewed our government’s budget for this year and listened to Finance Minister Carole James present it to all of us in the Legislature in Victoria. In a word, I am proud. We’ve made a lot of progress since being elected over 2½ years ago and I am very proud of Budget 2020 as it continues to build our plan for a stronger, better B.C.
Budget 2020 is about making life more affordable; improving the services people count on; and creating good jobs and opportunities in the Kootenays and across B.C.
Some highlights that impact us here in the Kootenays include the largest middle-class tax cut in our province’s history and the elimination of medical services premiums. B.C. was an outlier in Canada, charging citizens a flat tax with premiums for public healthcare. No more. And that leaves more money in your pocket.
We’ve also introduced the B.C. Access Grant so more people can enroll in college or university. This helps students in need with the costs of post-secondary education and gets them into the necessary programs for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Very important to families in our area is the new child opportunity benefit, providing eligible families with a tax-free benefit of up to $1,600 a year for families with one child, up to $2,600 for families with two children and it increases for families with more children.
This is part of our plan to reduce child poverty by 50 per cent by 2024, and with the recent report that we have already reduced child poverty by 29.6 per cent from 2016 levels, we are on our way to meeting our target and end B.C.’s reputation as having the highest child poverty in Canada.
Kootenay residents will also be happy to hear we’ve increased our CleanBC funding by $400 million, bringing the total program funding to over $1.3 billion. So now is a great time to go electric with your car, or retrofit your home.
Super important for our area: Budget 2020 also includes an electric-ready ferry for Kootenay Lake and upgrades to the Balfour and Kootenay Bay terminals! The new vessel will have almost twice the capacity of the existing MV Balfour, carrying between 50 and 60 vehicles. So better service and better carbon footprint once we have the full infrastructure built out to support an electric ferry.
With our third consecutive balanced budget, we continue to build out childcare, affordable housing, healthcare services and ensure people have the supports they need. We’re increasing K-12 education spending by $339 million and investing in job creation in all corners of the province. And we’re supporting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples by funding language revitalization, sharing revenues and redesigning child social services.
I’m very proud of what we are accomplishing. We are putting people first.
On another note, I wanted to remind everyone to wash their hands with soap regularly and avoid touching your face as these are the best ways to prevent the spread of germs, including COVID-19. If you are feeling sick, stay home, rest and call your doctor. Our government is closely monitoring the coronavirus and putting plans in place to contain it. We are also monitoring global and local economic impacts.
As the Minister for Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, I am keeping a close eye on this every day and working to ensure that British Columbians, our economy and our jobs are protected as best we can.
Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall writes here quarterly.