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BC Budget 2020: BCPRC Round-Up & Progress Report

BC Poverty Reduction Coalition members have been hard at work analyzing BC Budget 2020. Some of our members are celebrating as we are moving closer to winning long-term campaign goals that will help reduce poverty and inequality. Others are frustrated by a ‘stay the course’ budget and inaction that leaves many people in poverty still far behind. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a round-up of BCPRC member responses to BC Budget 2020 into three categories: meeting expectations, ‘not yet’ meeting expectations and failing expectations, with a link to member press releases and further information. 

Meeting Expectations

“The BC government’s 2020 Budget has students and educators celebrating the introduction of an up-front, needs-based student grant program. The BC Access Grant is the first of its kind in BC in nearly two decades, and will help reduce student loan debt for thousands of British Columbians every year… The BC Access Grant will help students access not only four-year programs, but certificate and diploma programs that are key for many aspects of the workforce.” – BC Federation of Students

“We were thrilled to hear that the government has taken our advocacy into consideration and concluded that needs-based grants are the way forward for students in BC. Our organization has advocated for this to become a reality for nearly 7 years. It was the basis for students to join together and form the ABCS in 2013. All of our hard work has paid off today.” –Alliance of BC Students

“The new BC Child Opportunity Benefit will be implemented starting in October 2020, providing a monthly tax-free payment to support nearly 300,000 families with children under 18 years of age.  Replacing the previous BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit which ended when a child turned six, the BC Child Opportunity Benefit will last until a child turns 18, saving families up to seven times the amount over a child’s lifetime.  Families with children under 18 will receive up to $1,600 per year for the first child, up to $2,600 per year for families with two children and up to $3,400 per year for families with three children. While this is positive news for families, the Child Opportunity Benefit does not replace the need for immediate and significant increases to income and disability assistance.” –YWCA Metro Vancouver

“It’s good to see the BC government put new funding into programs to support our most vulnerable students as well as the Classroom Enhancement Fund. BC teachers have been advocating for funding to specifically support Indigenous students as well as children and youth in care for many years. It’s encouraging to see this government undo some of the harmful cuts made by the previous administration.” –BC Teachers’ Federation

“By 2021, BC will eliminate the discriminatory server wage and have the highest provincial minimum wage at over $15 an hour. We’re seeing real progress for workers: boosts to wages for Early Childhood Educators, increases to the earnings exemptions for income and disability assistance, and the introduction of five days of paid leave for workers experiencing domestic and sexual violence.” –BCFED

“The Budget includes $2.47B for the Seismic Mitigation Program (SMP). “Parents have long advocated for safe, accessible and permanent buildings for their children’s learning. Families are pleased to see this government’s accelerated seismic improvements to our schools and the capital fund to maintain this trend,” –BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils

“We’re thrilled to hear of BC’s plan to tax carbonated sugary drinks (to come into effect July 1st). This is a huge step forward for everyone’s health but especially youth!” –BC Alliance for Healthy Living

“The budget introduces a new top tax rate of 20.5 per cent on the richest British Columbians, those with incomes over $220,000. According to the government’s estimate, this will add $216 million to the provincial budget in the upcoming fiscal year. This opens more potential fiscal space for much-needed public investments, while representing an additional measure to reduce the extreme levels of inequality in this province…It is great to see a marked reduction of new P3 commitments for important public infrastructure projects—including hospitals, residential care facilities and schools— and curbing the often-criticized practice that unnecessarily increases costs. The use of wasteful P3s should be discontinued completely.” –Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

“The BC government had already announced some new programs to support forestry workers affected by mill closures, including training programs and income support provided to families, including early retirement bridges for affected workers and some support to forestry contractors. Looking forward, there is a commitment of $13 million over three years to revitalize the forestry sector, including through better inventory mapping and improved forest management planning and stewardship, for which we have long advocated.” –Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

“Today’s provincial budget supports a multi-year plan for higher staffing levels in seniors care, faster access to primary care and diagnostic testing and major investments in health care infrastructure. British Columbians are benefiting from this government’s ongoing investments in health care, including $6.4 billion over three years for expanding and upgrading hospitals.” – Hospital Employees’ Union

Not Yet Meeting Expectations

“Disability Alliance BC is pleased to see the increase to the earnings exemptions for people on provincial income assistance (to $6000 per year) and disability assistance (to $15,000 per year) for those who are able to work; however, only a small percentage (4%) of disability assistance recipients were able to utilize the full earnings exemption prior to this increase.” –Disability Alliance BC

“After 16 years of devastating cuts under the previous government, and compared to what’s happening in other provinces across Canada right now, this budget is good news…[BCGEU consultation with its members] revealed that workload, recruitment and retention, burnout, and occupational health and safety-all due to under-staffing-remain critical challenges for workers in practically every ministry and sector from community social services and residential care, to social work, corrections and court services. Services and programs are important, but it’s equally important to have a human resources strategy in place to support the people that deliver those programs and services. Simply put: without our members, none of this works.” –BCGEU

“The $74 million committed in Budget 2019 should be seen as a down-payment on what needs to be much bolder investing in mental health and addictions care in the future. A commitment to allocate a minimum 9% of the overall healthcare spend to mental health and addictions would help reverse decades of under-funding and help more British Columbians get the right help and support at the right time. Without a new commitment to targeted funding for early intervention and a truly comprehensive system of services so people can get care before crisis, we will miss the opportunity to transform the system. The time is now.” –Canadian Mental Health Association-BC Division

“Decades of child care chaos is now being addressed with historic investments:

  • Early childhood educators receiving $2/hr wage enhancements and bursaries
  • Families of over 55,000 children paying lower fees, with 28,000 paying $10 a day or less
  • 10,400 new licensed spaces created or under development
  • Child care included as capital infrastructure in new schools across BC.

Much more remains to be done, as thousands of families are still waiting for a $10aDay program. In a 2019 poll, 90% of British Columbians confirmed their support for ongoing action on child care. With funding in Budget 2020, and new federal funding on its way, we expect the BC government to:

  1. Implement a provincial wage grid for early childhood educators to raise wages and address recruitment and retention. Currently, licensed child care spaces sit empty because there are no qualified educators to staff the programs.
  2. Expand the $10aDay prototype sites, as this provides the best model for building a system.
  3. Move child care into the Ministry of Education, where there is already a universal approach with capacity and infrastructure to expand licensed child care across BC.

It’s essential that government stop giving tax-payer funded handouts to expand for-profit, corporate child care and stop relying on voucher-style subsidies to make child care affordable” –Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC

“The budget provides $13 million over three years to the Crime Victims Assistance Program. It is unclear how these funds will be allocated. We continue to press for the funding of community-based sexual assault crisis response teams and integrated sexual assault clinics. These services are essential to ensuring appropriate and safe care for survivors, and are a critical component of meeting the province’s commitment to address gender-based violence.” –West Coast LEAF

“We are pleased to see that Budget 2020 continues investments in public health care and social services. We welcome new operational and capital funding for health services. However, we know that professional shortages in the health care system and child development sector require ongoing action by government. Health spending will increase from about $23 billion in 2019/20 to $24.3 billion in 2020/21—a rate of 5.6%. The majority of Ministry of Health-designated “priority professions” that have labour market challenges – including recruitment and retention – are health science disciplines, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, lab and imaging technologists, among others. HSABC continues to advocate for solutions to tackle the shortage of health science professionals in public-sector and non-profit organizations.” –Health Sciences Association of BC

Failing Expectations

“There has been online chatter that some people thought there would be a yearly increase in the PWD income assistance rates this year in the BC Budget 2020. Well there isn’t. 2019 was the last increase as was highlighted in the BC Budget 2019 which stated “BUDGET 2019 INCREASES INCOME AND DISABILITY RATES BY $50 A MONTH. SINCE 2017, GOVERNMENT HAS INCREASED RATES BY $150 PER MONTH, OR $1,800 A YEAR.” No promise increasing it each year” –BC Disability Caucus

“We had also hoped to see other specific investments to make our province more inclusive for people with disabilities, such as specific funding for accessible housing and a program to address affordability of medical equipment and supplies. We look forward to continuing to advocate for these and other necessary investments.” – Disability Alliance BC

“This budget does not appear to address the fact that:

  • children with special needs are still waiting for speech therapy or other early intervention services,
  • many social workers don’t have time to meet with youth on their case load, and
  • support for families that help avoid child apprehensions is insufficient.

First Call is calling for comprehensive, universal supports for youth aging out of government care. The expansion announced in this budget to eligibility for Agreements with Young Adults is a good step but insufficient to meet the needs of the most vulnerable youth who are aging out of care. We can do better for this small population of youth who have been in our care.” –First Call BC

“BC has an unprecedented number of unqualified and uncertified people working in schools as teachers. It’s unacceptable to have so many students in classrooms with people who are not trained teachers. There are also unfilled teacher vacancies every single day in every region of the province. Those unfilled vacancies force specialist teachers to be redeployed into classrooms and away from the important work they do with small groups, individual students, and children with special needs.”  –BC Teachers’ Federation

“The lack of new investments in affordable housing, and the delay in delivering on existing commitments, will only make B.C.’s already serious housing crisis worse, say representatives from B.C.’s community housing sector. The cost of developing affordable housing – principally land and construction – continue to rise, and the province needs to ramp up its housing investments if B.C. is to meet its goal of building 114,000 rental homes by 2028. Instead, the province is delaying the completion of 2,400 affordable homes.” – BC Non-Profit Housing Association

“Despite the release of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in June 2019, this budget has no commitments directed at implementing the Calls for Justice recommended by the National Inquiry. We are deeply disappointed that no mention is made in this budget of how BC will respond to the Calls for Justice. This glaring omission leaves the province lacking in accountability to Indigenous women, girls, transgender and Two-Spirit people.” –West Coast LEAF

“This budget includes funding in the amount of $57 million over three years for legal aid services. It is important to note that these funds are not an investment in reducing barriers to legal aid eligibility or an increase in civil legal aid services. West Coast LEAF is very disappointed with the province’s continuing failure to adequately fund legal aid and will continue to push for meaningful investments in access to justice for women and people experiencing gender-based marginalization.” –West Coast LEAF

Our take:

BC Poverty Reduction Coalition: BC Budget 2020: Government on the Right Track with Post-Secondary Grants but Significant Investment Needed to Meet Poverty Reduction Targets

Analysis from BC Poverty Reduction Coalition Members

Alliance of BC Students: Massive Win: Students Celebrate BC Access Grant

BC Alliance for Healthy Living: Tweet about Tax to Carbonated Sugary Drinks

BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils: Parents See Strong Benefits to Ministerial Cooperation to Support Students

BC Disability Caucus: Facebook post on another year without an increase

BC Federation of Students: BC Budget introduces grant program for post-secondary students

BCFED: Budget 2020 invests heavily in public services and infrastructure, introduces new tax on the 1%

BCGEU: BCGEU applauds increased tax fairness and investments in programs, infrastructure, and affordability; emphasizes the need for a strategy to support frontline workers

BC Non-Profit Housing Association: BC Budget: Delayed Investments Will Only Make BC’s Housing Crisis Worse

BC Teachers’ Federation: Budget 2020 creates space for addressing K–12 issues, but more focus needed on the teacher shortage crisis

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: Our take on BC Budget 2020

Canadian Mental Health Association-BC Division: Budget 2020: Transforming mental health and addictions care will need bold investment

Capilano Students’ Union: CSU welcomes needs-based grants announcement

Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC: Third year of Good News for Child Care

Disability Alliance BC: DABC’s Response to BC Budget 2020

First Call BC: 2020 Budget Delivers on Previous Promises but Thin on New Initiatives for Children, Youth and Their Families

Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC: BC Budget Introduces Grant Program for Post-Secondary Students

Health Sciences Association of BC: BC Budget Continues Investments in Health Care and Affordability Measures

Hospital Employees’ Union: Access to quality health care and affordability for families keeps B.C. on track

West Coast LEAF: Budget 2020: Province Committed to Staying The Course, but Leaves Many Behind

YWCA Metro Vancouver: YWCA Metro Vancouver’s Statement on the 2020 Budget Announcement