“B.C. is a great place to live, but people are facing real challenges – not only from global inflation and the pandemic, but from ongoing and systemic challenges. This year’s budget helps protect people who can’t afford today’s high prices and takes action on the issues people care about, like finding affordable housing and accessing health care.” – Minister of Finance, Katrine Conroy
Today, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy delivered the Government of British Columbia’s 2023-24 Budget. It is the first budget for Minister Conroy, appointed to the portfolio in December of 2022 and the first for David Eby as Premier. The budget projected a $4.2 billion deficit, forecasting declining deficits for 2024-25 and 2025-26. The budget comes on the heels of Eby’s first 100 days as Premier, with spending announcements today following the priorities he has outlined since taking over the top job – health care, housing, and affordability.
In advance of the budget, Premier Eby made several significant announcements regarding the transformational cancer care plan and providing help to British Columbians with affordability credits and keeping costs low.
Earlier this month, the throne speech had the government warning of tougher economic times ahead, with global inflation raising costs and increased interest rates slowing down economic growth. The budget speech delivered by Minister Conroy today echoed these warnings and argued that, despite storm clouds on the horizon, now is the time to invest instead of cutting services or raising fees.
The government will continue messaging around the need for strong investment in the province as it rolls out further announcements through the legislative session. Premier Eby has noted that many deficits in B.C. need to be addressed, including in municipal infrastructure, health care and mental health, and the lack of affordable housing.
Budget 2023 will now need to be passed in the legislature, but it’s unlikely to face any hurdles.
Helping people through challenges now
Having already delivered almost $2.4 billion in affordability support since summer 2022, Budget 2023 invests an additional $4.5 billion in new spending and credits over the next three years, including:
- $214 million to expand existing school food programs and capacity to address student hunger
- $119 million to cover costs for prescription contraception, the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so
- $558 million to enhance and expand support for those that receive income or disability assistance
- $264 million to increase financial support to foster families and caregivers
Investing in affordable, attainable housing
Budget 2023 makes targeted investments to get people into affordable homes and lays the groundwork for a refreshed housing plan to be released in spring 2023. It also includes investments of:
- $4.2 billion in operating and capital funding to support the refreshed housing plan
- Nearly $1.7 billion in operating and capital funding to build homes through BC Builds and Building BC programs
- $575 million over three years to support the construction of new student housing spaces
- Nearly $1.6 billion to address homelessness and encampments with strategies to prioritize cultural safety, Indigenous and community partnerships and the inclusion of people with diverse identities and needs
Keeping B.C.’s communities safe, healthy
Focused on keeping people safe and secure in their communities with the necessary services and care, Budget 2023 delivers significant investments to support the health care system, and safe and healthy communities, including:
- $6.4 billion in new investments over three years, including support to cancer care services, bolstering the health workforce, substance-use disorders, complex mental health issues, and several infrastructure projects for health care facilities
- $462 million to help build safe communities, improve access to justice, and create support for people with mental health and addictions issues
- $19 million to reduce stigma and evaluate the implementation of the province’s decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use
- $80 million over three years dedicated to improving access to justice
Advancing B.C.’s strong, sustainable economy
This budget sets the groundwork for a greener, more sustainable future powered by good-paying jobs, holistic management of natural resources, healthy and active communities, reduced emissions, responding to changing climates, and partnerships with Indigenous Peoples. Investments include:
- $480 million over three years to support Future Ready’s work to break down barriers to post-secondary training, including an additional $58 million over three years to expand support for newcomers and speed up foreign credential recognition
- More than $250 million over three years to protect, maintain and care for B.C.’s natural resources
- Build on cornerstones of the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 with a total of $140 million over three years
- More than $1.1 billion over the next three years to fight climate change by building more climate-resilient communities
- $77 million to speed up natural-resource permitting and begin modernizing B.C.’s permitting service-delivery model, which will help reduce backlogs, move projects forward, and continue to advance electrification and connectivity in remote, rural, and Indigenous communities
“Instead of using some of that to responsibly pay down debt or deal with other things, what did the NDP do with the surplus they had last year, a one-time surplus? They are trying to spend all of it.” – Kevin Falcon, Official Leader of the Opposition
Official Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon criticized the spending announcements as having no strategic overview and lacking focus. At the same time, the BC Green party called for more investment in public transportation and an increase in disability rates.