(Victoria) British Columbia is predicting that it will find itself in budget deficit for the next few years, which does not prevent the NDP government from spending millions of dollars on health, housing and support for families.
The province’s finance minister, Katrine Conroy, argued Tuesday that her government will continue to invest to help people, even if it results in a projected deficit of $4.2 billion for the 2023-2024 fiscal year and $11 billion for the next three years.
These deficit forecasts come after the announcement of an unexpected surplus in 2022-2023. Initially forecast for nearly $6 billion, this surplus was revised downwards to $3.6 billion, since the government of Prime Minister David Eby increased its spending on infrastructure, public safety and to counter the effects of the ‘inflation.
Mme Conroy defended his government’s choice to accept a budget deficit. According to her, the economy of the province is doing well and the government must help people.
Economic growth is expected to slow in British Columbia, from 2.8% in 2022 to 0.4% this year. A slight rebound is expected in 2024, to 1.5%.
The province’s total debt will drop from $93.4 billion to $107.9 billion next year.
During his speech, Mr.me Conroy said his government will make “the biggest addictions investment in the province’s history.” Its budget calls for $6.4 billion in health spending over the next three years, $1 billion of which will be dedicated to mental health and addictions services.
Since 2016, when British Columbia declared a public health emergency, more than 11,000 people have died due to overdoses and the toxicity of illicit drugs.
The budget also follows through on promises by the NDP government to provide free prescription birth control to BC residents and tax credits for renters.
The NDP promised during the 2017 election campaign to offer a $400 refund for tenants. The new budget includes an income-tested tax credit of up to $400 that will apply to 80 per cent of B.C. rental households starting in 2024, Ms.me Conroy.
The government will also increase income assistance and disability assistance payments, expand school lunch programs and increase family benefit payments by 10% in July as part of efforts to support families during this difficult time. galloping inflation, she said.
British Columbia’s carbon tax will increase by $15 per tonne each year until it reaches $170 in 2030.