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Fiscal Plan 2020-21 to 2022-23

Making life better

British Columbia is an economic leader in Canada. Private-sector forecasters expect B.C. to remain among the top of the provincial real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rankings in 2020 and 2021. Last year, British Columbia led the country with the lowest unemployment rate and was among the top in employment growth across the country.

Budget 2020 is a balanced plan that allows government to continue making investments that improve affordability and improve the services people count on, while supporting job creation throughout the province.

Resilient economy, stable economic growth

The Budget 2020 forecast reaffirms B.C. as an economic leader in Canada, while recognizing global economic uncertainty.

The forecast for B.C. real GDP growth in 2020 has increased slightly from 1.9% to 2.0%, while the forecast for 2021 has been revised slightly from 2.0% to 1.9%, compared to the First Quarterly Report 2019. The economic growth outlook for the 2022 to 2024 period is on average 2.0%, which is in line with previous expectations.

The main downside risks to the economic outlook include ongoing uncertainty regarding global trade policies, geopolitical tensions, weak global economic activity, as well as lower commodity prices and slower domestic economic growth. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in the province is expected to have a positive impact on B.C.’s economy. Fiscal sustainability at ICBC and the impact of global trade uncertainty on natural resource revenues pose risks to the fiscal plan.

To manage these risks, the Budget 2020 forecast for B.C. real GDP growth remains below the outlook provided by the Economic Forecast Council, reflecting one of the levels of prudence built into the fiscal plan.

Other layers of prudence are included in the fiscal plan to help address the possibility of lower than expected revenues, unforeseen expenses or emergencies. Budget 2020 includes an annual forecast allowance of $300 million in each of the three years of the fiscal plan. Budget 2020 also includes a contingencies allocation of $600 million in 2020-21 and $400 million per year in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Budget outlook

Budget 2020 projects surpluses of:

  • $227 million in 2020-21
  • $179 million in 2021-22
  • $374 million in 2022-23

Revenue outlook

Total government revenue is forecast at $60.6 billion in 2020-21, $62.4 billion in 2021-22 and $64.2 billion in 2022-23.

Expense outlook

Total expenses over the three-year fiscal plan are forecast at $60.1 billion for 2020-21, $61.9 billion for 2021-22 and $63.5 billion in 2022-23.

Capital spending

Taxpayer-supported capital spending over the fiscal plan is a record $22.9 billion and includes new investments to sustain and expand provincial infrastructure, including schools, post-secondary facilities, housing, transit, roads, bridges and hospitals.

Debt affordability

B.C.’s taxpayer-supported debt is projected to be $49.2 billion at the end of fiscal year 2020-21, $53.9 in 2021-22 and $58.6 billion at the end of 2022-23. The taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratio, a key metric used by credit rating agencies, is expected to remain near 17% by the end of the fiscal plan period.

New BC Access Grant

To support low- to middle-income post-secondary students when they need it most, Budget 2020 takes the next step in making life more affordable for B.C. students.

Building on the elimination of interest on B.C. student loans, a new needs-based, up-front BC Access Grant will remove barriers to education and provide support for learners to complete their studies.

In time for the 2020 fall semester, more than 40,000 eligible students at public colleges and universities throughout the province will receive immediate support with the up-front costs of their education.

The BC Access Grant complements the Canada Student Grant for Full-time Students, ensuring B.C. students receive up to $4,000 a year to help with the cost of programs leading to a degree, diploma or certificate.

  • Eligible students enrolled in a program under two years in length may receive up to $4,000 a year in BC Access Grant support.
  • Eligible students enrolled in a program of more than two years may receive up to $1,000 a year in BC Access Grant support, in addition to up to $3,000 under the Canada Student Grant for Full-Time Students program, totalling up to $4,000 each year.

The grant design reflects best practices and research that needs-based, up-front grants not only improve access to education, but also encourage completion by making life more affordable for students as they begin post-secondary studies at the start of each school year.

The new grant will be created with a new $24-million investment over three years, and by re-designing existing grant programs based on input from B.C. student advocates. This is in addition to approximately $37 million government is reinvesting from grants to ensure students get the help they need when they need it most.

This means that almost double the number of students will receive support.

The BC Access Grant program continues support for labour-market priorities, modernizes student financial aid and is flexible to meet high-demand occupations, such as early childhood educators, health-care assistants and trades workers. This is the first time that provincial grants will be available to part-time students and students in programs of less than two years in a much broader range of programs.

The BC Access Grant program builds on the B.C. government’s work to make life better and more affordable, including historic investments and policy changes in the post-secondary sector: 

Opening doors to post-secondary education and training:

  • Launching the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program for former youth in care to access free tuition at all 25 public post-secondary institutions. To date, more than 1,100 former youth in care have benefited.
  • Eliminating interest on B.C. student loans will save a typical student who graduates with about $28,000 in combined B.C. and federal student loans $2,300 in interest charges over a 10-year repayment period.
  • Reducing the cost of education by investing more than $3 million in open textbooks — the Province’s largest investment.
  • Creating B.C.’s first graduate-scholarship fund with a $12 million investment — the largest investment in graduate scholarships in the province’s history.

Supporting safe and state-of-the-art learning environments:

  • Making housing more accessible and affordable for students by investing $450 million to build approximately 5,000 new beds over six years, with 1,975 new beds funded to date.
  • Opening 11 new and improved trades, health-care and engineering training facilities in partnership with the federal government and post-secondary institutions throughout B.C.
  • Developing a new, 24/7, free mental-health helpline for students at all public and private post-secondary institutions throughout B.C.
  • Investing $750,000 in sexual violence prevention programs at post-secondary institutions.

Investing in the jobs of today and tomorrow:

  • Providing $42 million annually by 2022-23 to add 2,900 tech spaces for a range of technology programming at public post-secondary institutions throughout B.C.
  • Investing approximately $30 million overall to expand co-op and work-integrated learning in each of B.C.’s 25 public post-secondary institutions.
  • Negotiating a new Workforce Development Agreement with the Government of Canada, providing $685 million over six years to train and improve the skills of 67,000 British Columbians.
    • Investments to date include $12.4 million to help more than 2,000 women, youth and other under-represented groups access skilled trades training and $7.5 million for trades training for nearly 500 people in Indigenous communities.
  • Addressing workforce needs in health care and early childhood education by: 
    • investing in the first sonography program outside the Lower Mainland, at College of New Caledonia in Prince George, as well as Vancouver Island’s first sonography program at Camosun College;
    • expanding occupational and physical therapy spaces, and creating the first programs in the North;
    • creating the first nursing degree program in the northeast in Fort St. John;
    • adding 314 early childhood education spaces at 12 post-secondary institutions as part of a three-year, $7.4 million investment.
  • Investing in trades training including:
    • $12.4 million to help more than 2,000 women, youth and other under-represented groups access skilled trades training;
    • $7.5 million for trades training for nearly 500 people in Indigenous communities throughout B.C.;
    • $3.5 million to increase the number of apprentice advisors to increase support for both apprentices and employers.

Quick Facts:

  • 77% of all job openings over the next 10 years will require post-secondary education and training: 41% will require a certificate or diploma and 36% will require an undergraduate or master’s degree.
  • Starting in September 2020, eligible students applying for student financial assistance from StudentAid BC will be automatically assessed for the BC Access Grant. Students won’t need to apply separately.
  • Grant funding can be used toward tuition costs, but it can also be used for basic living expenses, such as the cost of rent, groceries or transit.
  • The new BC Access Grant follows best practices, bringing B.C. in line with other Canadian jurisdictions that provide up-front, needs-based grants.
  • The BC Access Grant supports the commitment in the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC Green Party caucus to improve access and reduce the cost of post-secondary education for students.
B.C.’s largest-ever infrastructure plan

With B.C.’s population set to grow by more than one million people in the next 15 years, delivering the infrastructure and services that people need is key to maintaining a strong economic foundation and improving everyone’s quality of life.

Budget 2020 makes new capital commitments by bringing taxpayer-supported capital spending over three years to $22.9 billion – the highest level in B.C.’s history.

Work that is underway on new and upgraded hospitals and health facilities, highway and transit projects, schools and new housing throughout B.C. is stimulating more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction.

As a growing province, these investments will help meet the increased demands for services and keep B.C. on the path to a sustainable future.

Investments over the three-year fiscal plan period include:

  • Health: $6.4 billion to support new construction projects and upgrading of health facilities, medical and diagnostic equipment, and information management systems. Major projects include redevelopment of the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, new patient care towers at the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops and the Penticton Regional Hospital, replacing Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace and building a new St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
  • Transportation: $7.4 billion for priority projects, including the Pattullo Bridge replacement, the Broadway Subway, four-laning on Highway 1 through Kicking Horse Canyon and improvements to highway corridors in Delta, Langley and along the southern coast of Vancouver Island.
  • Education: $2.8 billion to maintain, replace, renovate or expand K-12 facilities in North Vancouver, Sooke School District, Quesnel, Coquitlam, the Greater Victoria School District, Vancouver, Abbotsford and an addition to Valleyview Secondary in Kamloops. Many of these new and upgraded schools will also include neighbourhood learning centres and child care spaces.
  • Post-secondary education: $3.1 billion to build capacity and help meet the province’s future workforce needs in key sectors, including health, science, trades and technology. Projects include a new health science building for students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby; new equipment to expand the CEDAR supercomputer at Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University; and specialized equipment at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus, Vancouver General Hospital and BC Cancer Research Centre to support the development of personalized treatments for prostate, bladder and kidney cancers. Additionally, the provincial student housing loan program will see approximately 5,000 new student housing beds built around B.C., from Terrace to Cranbrook, and Prince George to Victoria.
  • Housing: As part of government’s 10-year plan to work in partnership to create more affordable housing for British Columbians, more than $1 billion over three years will support the construction of new low- and middle-income housing throughout B.C. This includes more housing for seniors, Indigenous peoples and families. Budget 2020 also provides an additional $56 million for 200 new units of supportive modular housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Building the foundations of reconciliation

From the day this government was sworn in, it has made Indigenous rights and reconciliation a priority – not for one ministry, but across the whole of government. On the day each minister was given their individual ministerial responsibilities, they were also given a mandate letter. This letter directed them to seek true, lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, and to support the work of adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the UN Declaration).

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act

In fall 2019, the legislature unanimously passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (the Declaration Act), developed in collaboration with the First Nations Leadership Council, which includes the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

The Declaration Act requires government, in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, to take all measures necessary to bring provincial laws into alignment with the UN Declaration. It also mandates government to create an action plan with Indigenous peoples on achieving the objectives of the UN Declaration, along with annual reporting on progress.

Government is committed to engaging with Indigenous peoples, Nations, organizations and leadership about next steps. This engagement will guide government as it begins to move forward toward full implementation of the Declaration Act.

Ongoing work to support reconciliation

The whole of government has been engaged for the past two and a half years in taking steps to work with Indigenous peoples to support healthy and thriving communities.

Government moved quickly to change policies and address gaps long identified as a high priority by Indigenous peoples, including work to address the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Declaration Act builds on the foundation of this work and demonstrates government’s commitment to true and lasting reconciliation, and willingness to work quickly to meet the priority needs of Indigenous peoples.

The following items are a selection of just some of the important work government has been doing over the last two years in anticipation of the Declaration Act.

Fixing the child protection system

No one wants to see a child harmed. And no one wants to see a child unnecessarily taken from their family. Because of the significant cultural harms caused by taking Indigenous children away from their families and communities, the Province has been working quickly to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the care of the Province.

To keep children with their families and in their communities, government boosted support payments to extended family members to match the supports given to all foster parents. Because more Indigenous children are being supported from within their families and communities, B.C. now has the lowest number of children and youth in care in 30 years, and the lowest number of Indigenous children in care since 2014. Still, this government knows much more needs to be done.

One key way government is working to keep Indigenous children out of care is by ending the practice of issuing “birth alerts,” which saw children taken from their parents without consent by service providers who had child protection concerns.

Instead of taking children away because families need help, this new, collaborative approach involves service providers working closely with parents to identify and provide the supports they need to give their children a healthy start.

The continuing overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in B.C.’s care system makes supports for children and youth aging out of government care particularly important. That is why government expanded the tuition waiver for former children and youth in care to all public post-secondary institutions as one of its first actions. It has since expanded the program to invest in a number of trades training programs, and to increase and improve the financial supports former youth in care receive so that they can focus on their studies. Budget 2020 continues to build on this initiative by making these important financial supports available to more youth who qualify for the tuition waiver.

The Province acknowledges and honours the more than 1,100 former youth in care now getting a post-secondary education or trades training, tuition free, and getting started on the path to a bright future.

Supporting Indigenous health and healing

Supporting the health and healing of Indigenous peoples is critical to the well-being of Indigenous families.

In partnership with the First Nations Health Authority, government has invested $40 million to build two new urban Indigenous treatment centres and rebuild or renovate six more in rural communities. It has also helped fund the Kilala Lelum Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative in Vancouver – a first of its kind in B.C., led by Indigenous Elders using both Indigenous and western medicine and healing practices.

Recognizing that Indigenous peoples have been disproportionately harmed by the overdose crisis, government partnered with the First Nations Health Authority, Métis Nation British Columbia and friendship centres on a three-year investment of $20 million to support First Nations communities and Indigenous peoples in addressing this crisis. Fifty-five grants have been provided under this program.

Making K-12 education more accessible and reflective of Indigenous experiences

For too long, too many Indigenous children and youth have been left behind by an education system that did not include Indigenous teachings and perspectives or reflect the lived realities of Indigenous peoples.

To help reverse this trend, government worked with the First Nations Educations Steering Committee and the First Nations Schools Association to deliver a collaborative tripartite agreement that ensures an equitable education for First Nations students, no matter where they live.

This $100-million, five-year agreement supports First Nations students in B.C. who attend on-reserve First Nations schools or off-reserve public or independent schools.

Thanks to the hard work of Indigenous students, new investments and a new curriculum that better reflects Indigenous knowledge, perspectives and experiences, Indigenous students in B.C. are completing secondary school at the highest rate in history, with almost 70% completing secondary school last year. Still, the goal is to see every student in B.C. succeed, so there is much more work to be done.

To reach that goal, government is continuing to work to improve education for Indigenous students by funding new Indigenous teacher education training spaces, two new Indigenous master of education cohorts and public-teacher education programs so teachers in schools are better equipped to support Indigenous learners. Government has also taken steps to better support Indigenous students in B.C. by bringing in a new professional standard that requires teachers to commit to truth, reconciliation and healing.

B.C. has also funded the creation of 17 First Nations language curriculums, with more in development, and is also committed to moving to full-course offerings in Indigenous languages. There are more Indigenous languages spoken in British Columbia than in any other province in the country. Government has a responsibility to do its part to support their survival and revival.

As part of addressing the vulnerability factors that can lead to Indigenous children struggling in the school system, government is investing $30 million over three years to expand the Head Start program in more than 30 communities across the province. Head Start offers culturally specific early-learning, child care and parenting programs, with services available at no cost to families.

These investments, in addition to new funding in Budget 2020 for vulnerable learners, will help more Indigenous students graduate with their peers.

Opening doors to opportunity

Indigenous students need to see a path forward for them at B.C.’s post-secondary institutions and a way to succeed in the workforce.

To better reflect the needs of Indigenous students, government is co-developing a new Indigenous post-secondary education and training strategy and Indigenous skills training programming with the First Nations Education Steering Committee, Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association, Métis Nation British Columbia, the British Columbia Aboriginal Training Employment Alliance and other Indigenous post-secondary partners.

As part of helping Indigenous peoples access good-paying jobs, government is also delivering more than $24 million a year in job-training funding in Indigenous communities through the Aboriginal Community-Based Training Partnerships Program, the Community Workforce Response Grant and Indigenous Skills Training Development Fund.

The Community Benefits Agreement is being used to keep jobs in local communities, and government investments are being used as an opportunity to provide apprenticeships, skills training and employment opportunities on a priority basis for Indigenous peoples and others who have been shut out from opportunity.

Representation matters. That is why government has made sure there is Indigenous representation on every board of directors of public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia.

In line with Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, government funded the creation of Canada’s first Indigenous law program at the University of Victoria, which is now providing intensive study of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous law, allowing people to work fluently across both realms. Government is also funding the pilot for a new Indigenous language fluency degree.

Supporting revitalization of Indigenous languages

For too long, language revitalization was neglected and all Indigenous languages in B.C. are endangered. Many of the challenges communities face around language and culture are systemic and founded on colonial practices aimed at eradication of Indigenous culture, including the residential school system. By investing in Indigenous languages and culture, the Province is starting to address those systemic social challenges at the community level, connecting peoples to their communities, land and cultures.

Fifty million dollars in provincial funding through the Indigenous-led First Peoples’ Cultural Council is helping communities and peoples to reclaim connections to their language and culture. With this funding, the council has more than doubled the number of community language grants to support language revitalization, with more than $16 million in grants distributed to First Nations since 2018.

The council is now supporting more than 30 language nests, which create cultural immersion environments for preschool-age children and their parents to become fluent in First Nations languages, as well as more than 100 mentor-apprentice teams. They are also significantly increasing the number of dialects archived on FirstVoices.com.

While the continued work of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council supports a foundation for the future, there is also still much to do together to support communities in their work to restore their languages, which are vital to nationhood and sovereignty.

Working together to address the housing crisis

Indigenous Nations and organizations are important partners with government in addressing the housing crisis.

Through the Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund, government is investing $550 million over 10 years to build 1,750 homes for Indigenous peoples, both on- and off-reserve.

With this fund, B.C. became the first and only provincial government to fund on-reserve housing. Nearly 1,200 new affordable homes are underway through this program.

Additionally, each and every one of the Building BC housing fund streams welcomes applications from Indigenous partners.

The provincial government is working with Indigenous communities, friendship centres and other Indigenous-led organizations to build the homes people need in communities in every part of the province.

Protecting the things that matter

Resource development is a vital part of the provincial economy. Resource jobs sustain families and communities. But resource development must be sustainable and pursued without jeopardizing the clean air, clean water and healthy land that people depend on. 

Under the UN Declaration, Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands, territories and resources.

As part of respecting this right, government worked closely with Indigenous leaders to find a way forward on the issue of salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago. Using a consensus-based process, the Province and the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, ‘Namgis and Mamalilikulla Nations worked together to deliver recommendations to the federal and provincial governments on the future of salmon farms in the region.

Through this process, which included industry, all parties were able to come together around a just transition plan for fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago. This process also resulted in changes to Land Act policy, so that in the future salmon-farm tenures will only be granted where there is an agreement in place with local First Nations within their traditional territories.

The Environmental Assessment Act plays an important role in involving Indigenous Nations in land-use decisions. Recognizing that this legislation is critical to reconciliation, government worked closely with Indigenous Nations to develop a new Environmental Assessment Act, which was passed in November 2018 and came into force in December 2019.

The new act increases avenues for Indigenous and public participation in the assessment process, involves all participants earlier and aims to identify issues of concern at the outset, improving outcomes and reducing conflict. Further, it requires the minister to consider participating Indigenous Nations’ consent to the project before a decision is issued.

Supporting self-governance

The right to self-government, autonomy and self-determination requires that Indigenous Nations have stable, predictable sources of revenue to invest in critical things for every government, like infrastructure, services that build healthy communities and the staff to get it done.

In November 2018, government announced that B.C. First Nations will share in provincial gaming revenue, with a 25-year commitment that will see about $3 billion in new revenues – transferred from one level of government to another – to support First Nations’ priorities for social services, education, infrastructure, cultural revitalization and self-government.

Through the BC First Nations Gaming Revenue Sharing Limited Partnership, $100 million per year is going to all First Nations communities in B.C. to pursue their own priorities and serve the needs of their communities. First Nations are using the revenues to make a real difference in communities. Examples include a community youth centre, a forest-fuel management program to protect homes from wildfires and language programs that build connection to culture.

Friendship centres provide important connections to Indigenous peoples in urban communities throughout the province. Recognizing the important role these community hubs play for urban Indigenous peoples, government tripled the financial support for friendship centres. More importantly, this represents, for the first time ever, stable core funding so that they can focus on their important work.

Justice for Indigenous peoples

Too many Indigenous peoples have had their lives irrevocably changed for the worse by a justice system that has been unresponsive to their needs and culturally unsafe. Meaningful, transformative changes to the justice system are needed to advance reconciliation.

To create these changes, government endorsed an agreement with the B.C. Aboriginal Justice Council, now the B.C. First Nations Justice Council, which identified seven priorities for transforming the justice system and committed partners to developing an Indigenous justice strategy.

To support this work, the BC Prosecution Service has been providing mandatory education and training for justice system staff, updating policy and practice, and engaging directly with First Nations to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous persons as victims, accused and offenders in the criminal justice system, and to make court services more culturally safe for Indigenous peoples.

Multiple new policies have been introduced through the BC Prosecution Service to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system, including new charge assessment guidelines, a new bail provision that directs prosecutors to exercise restraint in all bail matters, especially where the accused is Indigenous, and new guidelines for probation conditions that direct prosecutors to consider systemic factors that affect Indigenous peoples when addressing probation violations. Additional policy changes are under development to further support the goal of making the justice system more fair and equitable.

Recognizing that the adversarial approach often taken by the court system is not in line with Indigenous justice practices, government has also been expanding access to specialized Indigenous courts. Two additional Indigenous courts have opened since fall 2017, with the next one in Williams Lake set to open in early 2020.

Connecting Indigenous communities

Connections are important to communities. Articles 20, 21 and 24 of the UN Declaration require governments to support Indigenous peoples in gaining meaningful access to the internet to support economic activities, health care and social services.

In December 2019, government launched a new intake of the Connecting British Columbia program, offering an additional $50 million to help rural, remote and Indigenous communities expand broadband infrastructure.

Work is already underway or completed under this program to offer high-speed internet access to 83 Indigenous communities in British Columbia.

Physical connectivity is as important as digital connectivity, which is why the Province is working with the federal government to maintain BC Bus North services. Government is also offering driver training to people in Indigenous communities, recognizing that the ability to get around is critical, especially for Indigenous peoples living in rural and remote communities.