British Columbia’s finance minister shelved the tradition of buying new shoes to present her budget in favour of reading a story Monday to a group of three- and-four-year-old youngsters at a Victoria child care centre.
Carole James said her husband has promised to shine up her favourite pair of shoes for Tuesday’s budget, giving her time to read the story of “Pete the Cat” to the 14 children who gathered around the minister.
James said Pete’s feline adventures hiking through strawberry fields and mud puddles in white sneakers are somewhat similar to her budget because the journey ends well.
“I think, as you saw in the story, no matter what, it’ll all be good in the end,” James told reporters attending her per-budget news conference.
She would not comment directly on if the budget will be balanced.
James said her choice of a child care centre was more than symbolic because her budget will aim to make life more affordable for B.C. families, with a large focus on child care.
The New Democrats promised $10-a-day child care during last year’s election campaign, but are now saying their plan involves creating tens of thousands of affordable, licensed child care spaces over a decade.
“It’s a 10-year plan and you’ll see a major commitment,” James said. “Nothing could be more important than child care. I think it will be no surprise to you that child care is a big feature with the budget.”
She said plans to make housing more affordable are also part of the budget.
James said earlier that the budget includes initiatives to increase the supply of affordable homes for families, students and seniors, and measures to dampen speculation in the real estate market.
She said the budget will take a multi-pronged approach to create more housing options in a province where some seniors are forced to couch surf with friends and working couples are living in basement rentals because they can’t afford a down payment on a home.
The government’s throne speech last week promised the largest investment in affordable housing in the province’s history.
The New Democrats pledged in last year’s election campaign to build 114,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade.
Housing Minister Selina Robinson said the budget will outline a plan to involve all levels of government and community groups to increase the supply of affordable housing, but the crisis will not be solved overnight.
She said the government’s previous election promise of a $400 subsidy for renters remains part of the housing strategy, but would not confirm it is part of this budget.
“It’s still on the work plan,” Robinson said. “It’s still something government’s committed to.”‘
Story by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press