The 2016 provincial budget was introduced last month, and while it made some positive efforts in important financial areas, there was an opportunity to better address social issues.
True prosperity only exists when every person in society has opportunities.
The budget could also have experimented with new initiatives like a basic income guarantee pilot project, as the Ontario government plans to.
Many British Columbians who live paycheque to paycheque are not seeing prosperity. Unlike elected officials, most residents are not earning six-figure salaries, or spending taxpayers’ money on private planes. The premier spent more than $500,000 on private flights in the last five years, according information obtained by Bob Mackin under the Freedom of Information Act.
According to Canada Without Poverty’s 2015 Poverty Progress Profile on BC, 469,000 British Columbians live in conditions of poverty; thousands are homeless. Funding for affordable housing units and further financial support to help youth in care, introduced in this year’s budget, is a step in the right direction.
However, B.C. should also introduce a much-needed and long-overdue provincial poverty-reduction plan.
Researcher and economist Iglika Ivanova, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, notes potential areas where the budget could have been improved, including an increase in the minimum wage and a better childcare plan.
The minimum wage in B.C. is simply not in step with the high cost of living. The inaction over the years on introducing a provincial poverty-reduction plan has only exacerbated the problem.
Under the 2016 budget, people with disabilities wishing to use bus service will have to pay a $52 monthly bus-pass fee starting in September. Previously, they did not pay any monthly fees, but rather a yearly $45 fee.
According to Inclusion BC, the monthly disability benefits are insufficient to meet the high costs of housing, food and other necessities. Those costs have seen significant increases over the years. While the government increased disability benefits by $77 per month in this budget, the bus-pass fee means that the increase will only add $25 per month to total benefits, to $931/month.
The government should not impose the monthly bus-pass fee.
There also needs to be an increase in the monthly disability benefits, so that people with a disability are not facing a financial burden.
Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursuing a law degree. He writes monthly.