The B.C. government unveiled its 182-page budget for the 2023 fiscal year, and we broke down five highlights that you should know.
New Renters Credit
The NDP government has followed-through on its twice-promised rebate for renters — but it falls short of what was promised during its election campaigns.
- Instead of getting cheques for $400 a year, renters with household incomes under $60,000 can apply for the credit as part of their income tax.
- The amount is reduced based on income, and anyone whose household earns more than $80,000 won’t qualify.
- The cost of the program is $307 million this year.
Free Prescription Contraception
Birth control, Plan B, and IUDs will be free for British Columbians starting April 1.
- The current cost can range from $30 a month for birth control, to hundreds of dollars for copper or hormonal IUDs.
- The government is also moving to allow pharmacists to prescribe prescription contraception, freeing up people from having to visit a doctor.
- The cost of the program is $39 million this year.
Stakeholders in the budget lockup said the NDP are running the risk of creating a two-tier addictions treatment system — some beds cost people money, other beds don't. Sort of like an odd long-term care bed system, based on your income.
— Rob Shaw (@RobShaw_BC) February 28, 2023
From surplus to deficit as economy stalls
Premier David Eby is in the middle of spending an almost $6 billion surplus right now, but when the new fiscal year kicks in on April 1, the province is projected to start running a deficit of $4.2 billion for the 2023/24 year.
- That’s because the provincial economy has dramatically cooled due to interest rates and inflation.
- Projected GDP is dropping 2.8 per cent to be forecast at 0.4 per cent.
- It’s also because the premier has an ambitious agenda, which will increase government spending 7.8 per cent to $80.2 billion this year.
- Meanwhile, provincial revenues fall six per cent to $77.7 billion.
$1 billion for addictions
The province is spending almost $1 billion on mental health and addictions over the next three years.
- It will create 190 new treatment beds.
- It will also expand a combined mental-health and substance-use treatment model called the Red Fish Healing Centre, in Coquitlam, to the rest of the province.
- Funding for addictions treatment is set to be $200 million this year.
- The new government funding does not make all treatment beds free from user fees up to $40 per day, unlike a plan promised by the BC Liberals.
Health care and housing
The government is spending billions of dollars on health care and housing.
- On health care, $2.3 billion this year will boost core services, staff recruitment, a new family doctor pay model and continue the fight against COVID-19.
- On housing, $1.1 billion this year will be used to buy land near transit hubs for development, and boost student housing.
- More than $569 million will go towards building projects, and $454 million for homelessness supports and response programs.
- The government is promising a new housing strategy this fall.
- One hint at that program includes an unspecified pilot program in the budget to provide financial incentives to homeowners considering renting out secondary suites to long-term tenants.