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Finance

Budget 2021 supports people now while building the foundation for strong recovery

Media Contacts

Ministry of Finance

Media Relations
250 387-5710
Finance Minister Selina Robinson (flickr.com)

Media Contacts

Ministry of Finance

Media Relations
250 387-5710

Backgrounders

Economic snapshot: Investing in a strong economic recovery for B.C.

Like the rest of the world, British Columbia’s economy has faced an unprecedented year of challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are already strong signs of economic recovery.

Budget 2021 includes an updated forecast deficit of $8.1 billion for 2020-21, down from the 2020 Fall Economic and Fiscal Update projection of $13.6 billion. This decrease is because of higher-than-expected revenues, including tax revenue as a result of activities such as strong housing and retail sales, and moderately lower spending. Government is focused on continuing to support people, businesses and communities for a stronger, more resilient economic future for B.C.

Economic highlights

  • It is estimated that B.C.'s real gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 5.3% in 2020 and is projected to expand by 4.4% in 2021, 3.8% in 2022 and 2.2% in 2023.
  • Both retail and home sales were above pre-pandemic levels by mid-2020, supported by low interest rates and a consumer pivot toward goods purchases while services were disrupted, among other factors.
  • Retail sales had their largest monthly decline on record in April 2020; however, retail sales rebounded and were 15.3% higher in January 2021 than a year ago.
  • Housing market activity has been resilient despite the pandemic, and monthly home sales reached record levels in late 2020 and have continued to grow in 2021.
  • The average home sale price in B.C. has increased by 11.6% in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • B.C. lost an unprecedented number of jobs following the onset of the pandemic. As of March 2021, total employment in B.C. surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the highest job recovery rate among provinces; however, some sectors are struggling and not everyone has been affected in the same way.
  • Like the rest of Canada, B.C. experienced high unemployment rates at the beginning of the pandemic in March and April 2020. B.C.’s unemployment rate averaged 8.9% in 2020 and the unemployment rate for March 2021 was 6.9%.
  • B.C. was tied with Manitoba for the second-lowest unemployment rate in Canada when the pandemic hit and currently has the third lowest unemployment rate in Canada.

Operating results

  • The Third Quarterly Report projects an operating deficit of $8.1 billion in 2020-21.
  • Total revenue forecast is $61 billion, and total expense forecast is $69.1 billion.
  • Budget 2021’s three-year fiscal plan presents declining deficits, with a $9.7 billion deficit in 2021-22, $5.5 billion in 2022-23 and $4.3 billion in 2023-24.
  • $8.7 billion in new base budget investments across the three-year fiscal plan will help people stay safe and healthy through the pandemic and create new opportunities for an economic recovery that includes everyone.
  • The fiscal plan projections include significant prudence given the continuing health and economic uncertainty, which includes:
    • A Pandemic and Recovery Contingencies allocation of $3.25 billion in 2021-22, $1 billion in 2022-23 and $300 million in 2023-24 to continue to fund short-term initiatives to address health or economic recovery needs related to the pandemic.
    • General Programs Contingencies allocation of $1 billion in 2021-22, $800 million in 2022-23 and $700 million in 2023-24 to help manage unexpected pressures.
    • Annual forecast allowances of $1 billion in 2021-22, $750 million in 2022-23 and $400 million in 2023-24 to guard against volatility, such as revenue changes.
    • Notional allocations of $1.5 billion in 2022-23 and $2 billion in 2023-24 for caseload pressures and priority initiatives that may require funding in future budgets.
    • A forecast for B.C.’s real GDP growth that is lower than the outlook provided by the Economic Forecast Council (0.5 percentage points lower in both 2021 and 2022, and 0.2 percentage points lower in both 2023 and 2024).

COVID-19 spending

  • Budget 2021 focuses on health and safety, supports for people and business and preparing B.C. for longer-term economic recovery with $8.7 billion in budget increases and $4.6 billion in Pandemic and Recovery Contingencies over the fiscal plan.
  • The $3.25 billion in Pandemic and Recovery Contingencies for 2021-22 supports programs and services with:
    • $900 million for health-related COVID-19 management.
    • $1.05 billion for supports for people and businesses.
    • $200 million to prepare for economic recovery.
    • $1.1 billion in reserve to support any unanticipated and urgent health or recovery measures.
  • In 2020-21, the Province invested over $10 billion in COVID-19 relief and recovery measures. This included:
    • $6.7 billion in Pandemic Response and Economic Recovery Contingencies to support critical services, provide financial supports and support economic recovery.
    • $810 million in provincial contributions toward federal and provincial cost-shared Restart initiatives for transit and municipalities.
    • $3 billion for other response and temporary relief measures, including tax credits and reductions.

Capital spending

  • Total taxpayer-supported capital spending is projected to be $26.4 billion over the fiscal plan. The capital plan is well positioned to support the recovery with investments in existing projects so that people can get back to work right away and also includes investments to build the foundation of long-term recovery.
  • Budget 2021 projected spending over three years is $3.5 billion higher than the three-year plan outlined in Budget 2020 and is expected to create over 85,000 jobs over the fiscal plan period.

Debt levels

  • Debt is expected to increase significantly to finance the investments needed to ensure continued support for British Columbians who need it and a strong economic recovery for B.C.
  • B.C.’s taxpayer-supported debt is projected to be $71.6 billion at the end of fiscal year 2021-22, $82.8 billion in 2022-23, and $92.7 billion at the end of 2023-24.
  • The taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratio, a key metric used by credit rating agencies, is expected to remain below 30% throughout the fiscal plan, reaching 26.9% by 2023-24.
  • Despite a significant increase in borrowing and higher debt levels, B.C. has benefited from low interest rates partially due to the Province’s good credit rating.
  • As a result, the Province’s debt remains affordable, enabling government to invest now to support people and businesses through the pandemic and encourage a strong recovery.

The path to a balanced budget and fiscal sustainability is a priority for government to be able to continue to deliver the services people rely on and build a stronger, more equitable future for everyone. While the unprecedented level of uncertainty resulting from the ongoing impacts of the pandemic makes it too early to accurately forecast a specific timeline for balance, preliminary analysis indicates a return to balanced budgets within seven to nine years. The specific timeline, approach and plan will be presented in Budget 2022 when government expects greater certainty about the path and pace of economic recovery.

Better health and mental health care

The last year has highlighted the importance of strong health and mental health services.

Budget 2021 continues to protect the health and safety of British Columbians and expands the services people rely on with $4 billion in new investments over the fiscal plan to strengthen health and mental health care supports. This includes $900 million in one-time funding in 2021-22 to continue to deliver COVID-19 related health services.

COVID-19 health supports to keep people safe

While more people are being vaccinated each day, government continues working hard to keep people safe. Budget 2021 allocates $900 million in 2021-22 to support the Province’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes funding for:

  • The provincial vaccination program so that every British Columbian can receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Testing and contact tracing, expanded flu immunization, increased capacity at the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Rural and Remote Collaborative Framework to improve access to health services for rural, remote and Indigenous communities.
  • Ongoing supports to ensure the safety of long-term care and assisted-living facilities, including screening staff and providing additional personal protective equipment to help keep seniors safe.

Better health care for a healthy tomorrow

Budget 2021 continues to strengthen B.C.’s health care so people are better prepared for future health challenges. Budget 2021 includes an investment of $2.6 billion over three years in funding for health care, which includes:

  • $585 million over the fiscal plan for the Health Career Access Program to train and hire up to 3,000 people to be health-care support workers and assistants, including building capacity in long-term care facilities and targeting people who lost their jobs in other sectors as a result of the pandemic.
  • $495 million over the fiscal plan to continue to increase capacity in diagnostic imaging and surgery to accelerate the surgeries people need.
  • $300 million over three years to address growing demand for cancer care, PharmaCare and services under the Medical Services Plan.
  • $253 million over the fiscal plan to continue to expand team-based and urgent primary care centres that provide British Columbians with faster access to doctors and nurse practitioners.
  • $45 million over three years in new funding to help address systemic Indigenous racism in the health-care system through training and education, and through prioritizing the hiring of a health-care workforce that better represents B.C.’s diverse communities.

For many B.C. seniors, the last year has been especially isolating and difficult. The pandemic shone a light on the importance of a strong foundation of supports to keep seniors safe and healthy. Budget 2021 has targeted investments for seniors, including $68 million over three years to deliver quality home care to help seniors with daily living by increasing the number of care aides and other community care providers in communities. Budget 2021 also invests $12 million to provide people with moderate to highly complex needs the ability to manage their health with dignity by receiving care at home through the Home Health Monitoring Initiative.

The largest mental health investment in B.C.'s history

Through A Pathway to Hope, government began a long-term plan to transform B.C.’s mental health and substance use system. The dual health emergencies of COVID-19 and illicit drug toxicity have taken an immense toll. Budget 2021 invests $500 million to continue to expand mental health and substance use services to better connect people to the culturally safe and effective care they need.

Mental health funding

  • $97 million to build a network of mental health supports for youth through increased mental health funding for schools, new Foundry centres that provide young people health and wellness resources in their community, and integrated child and youth support teams for 15 more school districts.
  • $61 million in new funding over three years to improve access and quality of mental health services, including expanding eating disorder care and better access to suicide prevention services and early psychosis intervention.
  • $14 million for the First Nations Health Authority to deliver mental health and addictions services to Indigenous peoples.

Substance use and overdose emergency response

  • $330 million over the fiscal plan to provide a full spectrum of substance-use treatment and recovery services, including $152 million for opioid treatment.
  • 195 new substance use treatment and recovery beds in communities throughout the province to help more people get on a path to recovery.

Investing in new health infrastructure

Budget 2021 continues to focus on building critical health infrastructure through $7.8 billion in capital investments over the fiscal plan period. The investments will support new major construction projects and upgrading of health facilities, medical and diagnostic equipment and technology systems. Health infrastructure projects include the new Surrey Hospital and Cancer Centre and the new St. Paul’s Hospital, as well as new hospitals in the Cowichan District, Dawson Creek and District, Terrace and Stuart Lake. Investments also include new spaces for patients in the Burnaby Hospital, Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, Penticton Regional Hospital and Cariboo Memorial Hospital.

Supporting people through the pandemic and after

British Columbians are working hard to fight the virus and get life back on track. Government is here, working with British Columbians. To support people through the pandemic and help ensure people don’t fall further behind as B.C. moves toward recovery, Budget 2021 includes supports and services to make B.C. more affordable for everyone.

Creating an affordable B.C. for everyone

Free public transportation for children 12 and under

Over 340,000 children, 12 and under, around the province will be able to ride public transportation for free in time for classes this September. Government is investing $26 million, including $15 million from the Federal-Provincial Restart Agreement, to help families get around more affordably. Families in the TransLink service area will save up to $672 a year for each child that uses a monthly pass, while families in communities served by BC Transit could save up to $400 a year.

Supporting B.C.’s youth through education investments

The pandemic has been especially hard on B.C.’s youth, teachers and support staff. Budget 2021 continues to make investments in B.C.’s education system to improve access to mental health supports in schools and develop a framework to address racism and reconciliation so that the next generation can continue to develop with the safety and support they need to thrive. Budget 2021 invests $1.2 billion in operating funding over the fiscal plan to support the growing number of students in B.C.’s K-12 system and to support wage increases negotiated under the Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate for teachers and support staff. Budget 2021 also includes $3.5 billion in capital investments over the fiscal plan to expand, replace, maintain or renovate schools in communities across the province.

Building more affordable housing in communities throughout B.C.

More than 26,000 new homes have been built or are underway since government launched its 10-year Homes for B.C. plan in 2018. Budget 2021 continues to support this key priority by creating more affordable housing options for growing families, seniors, women and children leaving violence, students and Indigenous peoples. This includes an additional $2 billion in development financing through the HousingHub program to work with partners to facilitate the creation of approximately 9,000 new homes for middle-income families over the next three to five years.

Affordable child care for British Columbians

Over 35,000 B.C. families now have access to low-cost child care through historic investments over the last four years. Budget 2021 continues government’s plan to make quality and affordable child care available for all families, including more than doubling the number of $10-a-day child care spaces through the Childcare BC Universal Prototype Sites, while improving wages for workers and adding thousands of new spaces.

BC Recovery Benefit

The BC Recovery Benefit has helped approximately 2.5 million British Columbians with more than $1.2 billion to date, while stimulating local economies. The benefit provides a one-time, tax-free payment of up to $1,000 for eligible families and single parents, and up to $500 for eligible individuals. Budget 2021 includes $100 million to continue to fund the BC Recovery Benefit. People can apply until June 30, 2021.

Keeping British Columbians healthy

Healthy families are essential to a healthy economy and a healthy future, and Budget 2021 continues to protect British Columbian families from COVID-19 and expand the health and mental health services people rely on to stay healthy and safe.

Supporting B.C.’s vulnerable people

For many people who already faced systemic barriers or oppression, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have magnified existing inequalities. The risk of long-term economic insecurity is further amplified for Indigenous women, people of colour, women with disabilities, non-binary people and people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Budget 2021 includes programs and funding directed to people experiencing inequality to help remove and break down barriers that prevent access to supports so people can get the help they need, when it’s needed.

Income and disability assistance

For people facing financial barriers, Budget 2021 includes the largest-ever permanent increase to income and disability assistance in B.C. The $175-a-month increase builds on two previous increases totaling $150 since 2017, for a total increase to assistance rates of $325 a month. These three increases were the first in B.C. in over 10 years. Budget 2021 also provides a $50 increase to the Senior’s Supplement – the first increase since it was established in 1987 and will help 80,000 low-income seniors.

Child Opportunity Benefit

Effective October 2020, nearly 300,000 families began to receive the Child Opportunity Benefit, which will continue until the child turns 18, whereas previous benefits stopped at age six. Families with one child receive up to $1,600 per year, up to $2,600 for two children, and up to $3,400 for three children. In total, families in B.C. will receive $410 million through the Child Opportunity Benefit this year.

Supports for people experiencing homelessness

At a time when British Columbians were asked to stay home, wash their hands and stay safe, people experiencing homelessness were at particular risk. B.C. responded quickly by expanding shelter options, including securing more than 3,000 temporary spaces through leases of hotel rooms and emergency shelters with services to help keep people safe. Budget 2021 includes:

  • An additional $265 million in 2021-22 to extend supports and services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to maintain 3,000 temporary emergency shelter and hotel spaces that supported people facing homelessness with a safe place to go during the pandemic.
  • Opening more permanent supportive housing in partnership with the federal government as part of the Rapid Housing Initiative.

These emergency measures are an important step in supporting people experiencing homelessness now, and government will continue to work with community partners to deliver a co-ordinated response to homelessness based on prevention, more permanent housing options and support services to continue improving people’s outcomes.

Building a more equitable future for B.C.

Budget 2021 goes further to support people who need it most, including Indigenous communities, people with disabilities, women and youth by providing:

  • $85 million over the fiscal plan to support family, children and youth services, including additional funding to support children in care, and providing children with a disability more funding for medical equipment and services for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • $367 million in new funding for Community Living BC over three years to provide supports and services to over 24,000 adults with developmental disabilities and their families.
  • $132 million over three years for a justice system that serves all British Columbians and provides timely and equitable access to justice particularly for women, visible minorities, single parents, refugees, Indigenous peoples, 2SLGBTQ+ community members and people with low incomes.
  • $45 million over the fiscal plan for First Nations cultural safety and humility training and Indigenous liaisons in every regional health authority to help address systemic Indigenous racism in the health-care system through training and education.
  • $20 million over the fiscal plan to add 400 more spaces to the Aboriginal Head Start program that provides no-fee, culturally relevant care for Indigenous families.
  • $17 million to partner with hundreds of Indigenous communities and organizations to expand access to programs through the Indigenous Skills Training program.
  • Tourism investments to support the recovery of a sector in which groups that have been disproportionately affected represent a significant part of the workforce.

Government remains committed to fighting against racism and making B.C. more welcoming and inclusive for everyone. The Province is continuing to tackle racism through the reinstatement of the B.C. Human Rights Commission, stronger anti-racism supports for schools and the development of a new anti-racism act and legislation on race-based data collection.

Budget 2021 makes significant new investments to advance child care, make life more affordable, reduce poverty, advance meaningful reconciliation and invest in the services people rely on to build a future recovery for British Columbia that includes everyone.

Helping B.C. businesses through the pandemic and recovery

B.C. businesses will continue to have access to supports and services through Budget 2021 to help support sectors through this challenging time; especially those hit hardest by COVID-19.

Budget 2021 expands on the targeted grants and services in the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan to help B.C. businesses through the pandemic and help them prepare for recovery. Ongoing business supports include:

  • $150 million to support the StrongerBC Increased Employment Incentive tax credit announced through the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan that provides a tax credit for private-sector employers who increased their payroll through new employees or compensation increases in the last quarter of 2020.
  • $35 million to help B.C. farmers keep the temporary foreign workers who are supporting B.C.’s crop harvesting safe from COVID-19.
  • $10 million over three years to expand the Grow BC, Feed BC, Buy BC strategies to strengthen and expand the domestic market for B.C. products.
  • A PST exemption on capital investments in select equipment and machinery, a tax support to help businesses pivot or upgrade operations that is open for submissions and continues until September 2021 with an estimated 110,000 incorporated B.C. businesses eligible.
  • $195 million in funding to continue the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant program. Through discussions with the business community, the program is now easier to access and more businesses are eligible.

The Province has been providing supports for businesses throughout the pandemic. The fall 2020 StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan and earlier 2020-21 supports included:

  • $44 million for the Launch Online program, connecting businesses with B.C. technology companies to create or improve their e-commerce and provide digital marketing training to help businesses boost their online sales.
  • $10 million to increase value-added manufacturing in B.C. by supporting small and medium-sized businesses to make their products more accessible in the market by commercialising new technologies or products and an additional $6 million in grants for businesses to help strengthen B.C.’s supply chain.
  • $7.5 million to support B.C.’s growing agri-tech industry.
  • $7 million to expand B.C.’s food hub network and support farm innovation and food processing.
  • An average 25% reduction in commercial property taxes in the 2020 calendar year, delivering more than $700 million in reductions for businesses.
  • The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, cost shared with the federal government, which supported businesses until the end of September 2020 with eviction restrictions and a rent reduction of up to 75% during the height of business closures last year.

Supporting B.C.’s hardest hit sectors

Not all sectors were affected by the pandemic in the same way. As the challenges faced by different sectors have become clearer, government has tailored supports to fit their needs.

Tourism

For tourism operators, COVID-19 brought the closure of borders and an end to the travel these businesses rely on. Government has worked closely with the sector over the past year to support them through this challenging time, including:

  • $68 million in tourism relief and recovery measures in the fall 2020 StrongerBC plan, including investments to help municipalities build, adapt and diversify their tourism infrastructure and Destination BC funding to market B.C. domestically and secure its spot in the international tourism market when it is safe to welcome visitors back.
  • $5 million to help local Indigenous tourism businesses with grants of up to $45,000 to provide relief and recovery supports as businesses navigate the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19.
  • $100 million of the Small and Medium Sized Business Grant funding announced in fall 2020 is targeted to tourism operators.

As B.C. moves through the pandemic and into recovery, government will continue to work with business and tourism stakeholders, as well as with health officials to ensure B.C.’s tourism sector is poised to return and welcome back the world as soon as it’s safe to do so. To help the B.C. tourism sector prepare for a strong future, government will invest:

  • $100 million through Budget 2021 to support tourism recovery starting in 2021-22, including support for major anchor attractions that help make British Columbia a unique destination.
  • An additional $20 million in Budget 2021 for community destination development grants that will help communities prepare for future visitors through new tourism infrastructure like trails and airport improvements.

Arts and culture

For arts organizations and the entertainment and events industries, the pandemic often meant turning off the lights in theatres, art galleries and music venues, cancelling shows and requiring innovative new ways to connect with audiences. Government has worked closely with leaders in B.C.’s arts and entertainment communities to develop targeted recovery funding and has already invested over $35 million as part of the fall 2020 StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan.

Through StrongerBC, government provided $22.5 million in funding through AmplifyBC to support B.C.’s music industry over the next three years. Budget 2021 also doubles the budget for the Arts Infrastructure Program. This will provide $6 million over three years to support arts and culture organization recovery through grants that support capital improvements like the construction of new spaces, expansion of existing spaces or the purchase of new equipment.

Restaurants and hospitality

Restaurants and the hospitality industry have continually adapted to the changing landscape of the pandemic and provincial health officer's orders. British Columbians have seen businesses team up and create innovative solutions to help keep businesses going through this difficult time. Government is supporting the restaurant and hospitality industry by:

  • Supporting 14,000 restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, gyms and fitness centres through the most recent health restrictions with more than $50 million through Circuit Breaker Business Recovery Grants.
  • Helping restaurants, bars and tourism operators with liquor licenses purchase beer, wine and spirits at wholesale liquor pricing permanently so they have some additional financial relief.
  • Issuing a temporary cap on fees charged to restaurants by food delivery companies to 15%, so restaurants can keep operating online with more people eating from home.
  • Hiring hundreds of tourism and hospitality staff laid off through the pandemic to support with B.C.’s immunization plan as non-clinical staff at immunization clinics throughout the province.

From restaurants delivering gourmet holiday dinners to online streaming by local arts organizations, B.C. businesses have used creativity and innovation to rethink and retool. Government is here to support businesses who need it now and help all B.C. businesses move into a resilient future.

Investing in B.C. now for a strong economic recovery

By keeping people healthy and investing in communities, B.C. can move toward a strong economic recovery that includes everyone.

Through targeted training, investments in infrastructure and job creation, Budget 2021 will work to provide long-term opportunities for people, businesses and communities.

Investing in people through new training and employment opportunities

When COVID-19 hit B.C., many people and families experienced the financial and emotional stress of unexpected job loss. In some sectors, employment has returned to or surpassed pre-pandemic levels, but not everyone has been affected in the same way. Investing in post-secondary education and skills training opportunities are an important part of B.C.’s recovery. Budget 2021 invests in training and retraining people to secure good-paying jobs and strengthen B.C.’s labour force, including:

  • $96 million over three years for new training spaces to continue to build a workforce to increase health-sector capacity, including training for participants of the Health Career Access Program.
  • $32 million in one-time funding to continue training initiated through the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan, including:
    • $17 million to partner with hundreds of Indigenous communities and organizations to expand access to programs through the Indigenous Skills Training program.
    • $5 million to expand investments made in 2020-21 for micro-credential training in B.C. for people looking to retrain and pursue new career opportunities, adding 30 new micro-credential programs.
    • $6 million to support work-integrated learning placements for nearly 3,000 students in B.C. post-secondary institutions, helping one of the hardest hit demographics gain meaningful employment.
    • $4 million to continue short-term skills training programs for unemployed or underemployed people to train in high-demand sectors, such as construction, technology, health care and child care to ensure graduating students are well positioned to get a job.

Employment opportunities for B.C.’s youth

Government is working to ensure that the pandemic does not disrupt the future success of B.C.’s youth. Through Budget 2021 and the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan, the Province is creating employment and training opportunities for about 5,000 youth through:

  • $15 million to expand the Innovator Skills Initiative program that provides up to $10,000 in funding for businesses to help hire up to 3,000 post-secondary students who have completed certification or training.
  • $9 million for about 160 jobs in the Natural Resource Youth Employment program.
  • $7 million through the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan has invested in the Digital Technology Supercluster to support the expansion of the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator program within B.C. to support 1,400 to 2,000 Indigenous, Black, people of colour and under-represented youth get into an internship program.
  • $4 million to support over 80 youth employment opportunities through BC Parks, Conservation Officer Services and the Aquatic Invasive Species program.
  • $5 million to extend the Clean Coast, Clean Waters program initiated in StrongerBC’s Economic Recovery Plan to create approximately 180 jobs in removing marine debris from coastlines.
  • $3 million for the Recreation Sites and Trails BC youth program to create 72 new jobs to help restore public outdoor recreation spaces and provide jobs in rural and remote communities.

Investing in communities for a strong economic recovery

B.C. communities have shown resilience over the past year. Budget 2021 includes historic investments to build on that resilience by helping ensure the right infrastructure is in place to deliver the services people count on, while creating jobs and upgrading hospitals, schools, highway and transit projects.

Budget 2021 provides a record $26.4 billion in taxpayer-supported investments over three years as part of the Province’s capital plan. This record capital spending over three years is $3.5 billion higher than the three-year plan in Budget 2020 with investments in health, education and transportation. Capital investments are expected to create over 85,000 jobs over the fiscal plan.

These investments build on the already historic investments government has made toward critical infrastructure. The focus is on both existing projects, so that people can get back to work right away, and supporting the foundation of long-term recovery through new investments in the transportation, health and education sectors.

Budget 2021 also invests in new opportunities and existing community infrastructure through:

  • New base funding of $40 million over the next three years to provide high-speed internet and cellular coverage for more rural and remote communities, including Indigenous communities.
  • $36 million in operating funding and $47 million in capital funding for BC Parks to expand and improve trails and backcountry infrastructure, add 100 new full-service campsites per year, purchase new land to expand parks, improve the Discover Camping reservation system and support existing park infrastructure.
  • $30 million to support initiatives in communities throughout B.C. to mark B.C.’s 150th anniversary of entry into confederation. Investments will help further reconciliation, recognize the diversity that contributes to B.C.’s vibrant social and economic fabric, and support resiliency and recovery throughout the province to mark the milestone.

Budget 2021 also includes $11 million over the fiscal plan to support faster permitting for land-based decisions and ensure the Province is better equipped to promote sustainable economic development.

The Province will continue to work with businesses, economists and Indigenous and community leaders to ensure a strong and sustainable recovery for all B.C. communities.

Investing in B.C.’s future through the InBC Strategic Investment Fund

Budget 2021 includes $500 million in financing over the fiscal plan for the InBC Strategic Investment Fund. Investment decisions will be made independent of government, but will be guided by government’s priority of supporting specific economic, social and environmental policies, such as moving toward a greener economy and advancing reconciliation.

Investment through the fund is anticipated to begin later this year, and will help to attract and anchor high-growth businesses, talent and good jobs in B.C.

Funding supports work with First Nations to advance reconciliation

Budget 2021 provides funding across government for work between the Province and Indigenous peoples to advance reconciliation, ensure Indigenous peoples can fully participate in economic recovery and continue to work together to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Budget 2021 adds $60 million in annual base funding to the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, which will provide dedicated funding that supports Indigenous participation in land and resource activities, negotiations and engagement on legislation, policy and programs. Stable funding is vitally important to advance reconciliation consistent with the Declaration Act and will enhance the relationships and collaborative work between the Province, First Nations and industry.

New positions in key ministries will be added through Budget 2021 to ensure the necessary staff are in place to carry out the work to implement reconciliation agreements that the Province and First Nations have signed together, including land transfers, as well as to implement the Declaration Act. Budget 2021 includes $6 million per year to support 30 new positions in the ministries of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

Budget 2021 continues critical investments in skills and training to support Indigenous peoples to access programs to prepare for new employment opportunities in high demand jobs. This includes $17 million in 2021-22, building on previous investments in the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan and Budget 2020.

The Indigenous Community Skills Training and Education program received $15 million to enable more than 1,000 Indigenous peoples whose employment was affected by COVID-19 to access skills training and education programs.

An additional $20 million in new funding is being provided for the Aboriginal Head Start program, which provides no-fee, culturally relevant child care for Indigenous families.

Budget 2021 includes $59 million to support culturally safe health services for Indigenous peoples, which is critical to ensuring equal access to the health-care system and promoting health and well-being. This includes $14 million for the First Nations Health Authority to deliver targeted mental health and addictions services for Indigenous peoples throughout B.C. and a further $45 million over three years to implement recommendations of the In Plain Sight report by providing additional cultural safety and humility training and Indigenous liaisons within the health authorities.

In addition to the budget, the fall 2020 StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan included significant funding to advance reconciliation and build a more inclusive economy, including:

  • The Connecting British Columbia program and the Government of Canada’s Universal Broadband Fund will provide $4.5 million to improve cellular service on Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to Prince George, fulfilling a critical recommendation to make the highway safer and help prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.
  • $5 million to help local Indigenous tourism businesses through the BC Indigenous Tourism Recovery Fund, part of a cross-government effort to help all aspects of the tourism industry.
  • Rural Economic Recovery grants ($20 million) include funding for Indigenous and local governments to support immediate job creation through construction.
  • $1.9 million for the Anti-Racism Restart and Recovery program to connect communities with information, supports and training to respond to, and prevent, incidents of racism and hate.
  • Environmental efforts include funding to assist communities, First Nations and tour operators to clean up B.C.’s shorelines ($14.8 million) and about 70 watershed and wetland initiatives ($27 million) to ensure B.C.’s water stays healthy and resilient in a changing climate.

Overdose response and awareness efforts in rural, remote and Indigenous communities will be supported through $1 million in prevention grants. This builds on 2020-21 investments of $2.3 million to expand life-saving interventions and mental health care for First Nations and Métis youth, and post-secondary students. A rural, remote and Indigenous COVID-19 framework was established to ensure people have access to the health care they need.

Reconciliation in action

The Province and Indigenous peoples have continued to build the foundations for a shared vision of self-determining, healthy and prosperous Indigenous communities in B.C.

First Nations are receiving a 7% annual share in provincial gaming revenue from a long-term agreement signed in September 2020. This agreement is expected to provide B.C. First Nations with as much as $3 billion over 25 years, providing funding for long-term investment in services their communities need.

Through the Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund, the Province is investing $550 million over 10 years to build 1,750 homes for Indigenous peoples, whether they live on- or off-reserve. Nearly 1,100 new affordable homes are complete or underway, including close to 360 homes on-reserve, making B.C. the first province in Canada to invest provincial housing funds into on-reserve housing.

The BC First Nations Justice Strategy, signed with the BC First Nations Justice Council in March 2020, is part of government’s collaborative work to improve Indigenous peoples’ experience within the justice system. B.C. is also working with the council to create Indigenous justice centres and announced funding in September 2020 to build the University of Victoria’s National Centre for Indigenous Laws.

Government is committed to lasting relationships with Indigenous peoples and has made progress through a number of new long-term agreements in 2019-20, including the Lake Babine Foundation Agreement and Coastal First Nations Memorandum of Understanding for Reconciliation Protocol 2.0.

Indigenous peoples living in urban areas are receiving increased supports to meet the challenges of the pandemic through $7.8 million in funding for Aboriginal friendship centres, helping assist individuals, young families, single parents, youth and Elders through a mix of in-person and online services.

Preparing B.C. for a greener recovery

Budget 2021 builds on the progress government has made creating a cleaner, stronger economy for everyone through CleanBC by investing an additional $506 million to reduce emissions and create new opportunities and promote affordability. These investments in the low-carbon economy and emission reductions are key to positioning B.C. for a strong recovery.

With a range of partners, government has laid the foundation for a better future by rising to the challenge of climate change, protecting communities, expanding B.C.’s economy and creating new jobs and opportunities for people around the province.

The province has had a dramatic increase in new electric light duty vehicle sales, the highest rate in North America. B.C.’s zero-emissions vehicle sector contributes approximately $600 million to the provincial economy. CleanBC rebates and low interest financing are making energy-saving building improvements more affordable, and government is working with industry to reduce emissions with cleaner technology and increased energy efficiency through the CleanBC Program for Industry.

Through StrongerBC, government invested $190 million to support jobs and a more resilient economic recovery. This will help reduce emissions in transportation, support low-carbon innovation, restore and protect critical watersheds and habitat and tackle climate change while preparing for its impacts.

Budget 2021 investments bring the total funding for CleanBC to nearly $2.2 billion over five years.

Cleaner transportation

The Province continues to invest in the transition to cleaner transportation by making electric cars more affordable, investing in charging stations and shifting to renewable fuels. Budget 2021 includes $130 million for zero-emission vehicle incentives, electric charging stations, technological development and electrification of school buses, ferries and government fleets. This includes:

  • $94 million in Go Electric program rebates for purchases of zero-emission vehicles, charging stations and supporting the commercialization of heavy-duty vehicles.
  • $18 million for active transportation infrastructure like bike lanes, sidewalks and multi-use pathways.
  • A PST exemption on electric bikes to encourage more active transportation that will save British Columbians an estimated $7 million annually.
  • $10 million to further develop policy on reducing the carbon intensity of fuel and developing the hydrogen economy in B.C.

Better buildings, stronger communities

Budget 2021 supports cleaner, stronger communities with increased funding for energy efficiency in buildings, city planning and reducing diesel use in remote and Indigenous communities. This includes:

  • $46 million in energy-efficient buildings and communities, which includes $34 million to reduce diesel consumption for electric generation in remote communities.
  • $12 million for energy efficiency upgrades to schools under the Carbon Neutral Capital Program.
  • $11 million to develop and fund a new program to help local governments plan for compact, energy-efficient communities.

The Province also remains committed to developing a property-assessed clean energy framework to help homeowners and building owners finance energy-efficient improvements that reduce costs and emissions.

Working with industry and clean tech

The Province continues to partner with industry by providing $96 million in new funding for the CleanBC Program for industry to reduce emissions, expand the clean-tech sector and support global competitiveness. The three-year allocation is up to $519 million and aligns with planned increases to the carbon tax. Budget 2021 also provides:

  • $60 million to support the Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy and for clean-tech investments to expand partnership opportunities with the federal government. The centre will support development and commercialization of clean technology in B.C. – creating good jobs and accelerating technology development to help transition to a low-carbon future.
  • Additional funding of $4 million for the Climate Action Secretariat to strengthen analytical capacity to develop climate action measures that support clean, inclusive economic growth.
  • Continued funding of $519 million over the fiscal plan through CleanBC’s Program for Industry to help industry, including forestry and mining operations, transition to low-carbon technology.

Climate adaptation and preparedness

The Province also continues to invest in initiatives to support climate preparedness and adaptation. Budget 2021 provides $6 million to support planning and action as the first phase of B.C.’s Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy to better respond to climate risk and reduce its impacts.

Building more affordable housing

With the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbians are staying home more than ever. Physical distancing and work-from-home spaces have transformed the role of people’s homes in daily life.

Three years ago, government made the single largest investment in housing in B.C.’s history and introduced Homes for BC: A 30-Point Plan to Bring Affordability to British Columbia. Budget 2021 provides $80 million across the fiscal plan to continue to fund the strategy and prioritize delivering 114,000 affordable homes to British Columbians by increasing and improving housing supply.

Giving the HousingHub more financial flexibility to keep making essential investments

Budget 2021 provides $2 billion in development financing through HousingHub, a division of BC Housing, for government to work in partnership with communities, non-profit and private sector stakeholders to facilitate the creation of new rental housing and homeownership opportunities for middle-income British Columbians.

With this additional investment, HousingHub will be able to facilitate the creation of approximately 9,000 new homes for middle-income families over the next three to five years. Since the introduction of Homes for BC, BC Housing, through HousingHub, has been a crucial partner working with local governments, non-profits, communities and private-sector stakeholders in getting more rental housing options for middle-income British Columbians built across the province. This funding will enable it to build on success of the program to date.

Making direct investments to create more social and affordable housing

From supportive housing units to mixed-income, affordable rentals, the Province continues to build on historic investments made in housing – $7 billion over 10 years starting in Budget 2018. To achieve government’s housing commitments, Budget 2021 continues to provide funding to support the construction of 114,000 units, including funding 10,000 new housing units over the fiscal plan through grant funding to non-profit housing providers and $1.6 billion in capital investments. The new units will help support British Columbians, such as middle-income families, seniors, Indigenous peoples and women and children leaving violence, and are a part of government’s commitment to deliver more housing options for British Columbians who need it.

Progress on Homes for B.C.

Homes for B.C. is working to put the Province on the path to address the lack of affordable homes and stabilize the real estate market. Of the 30 points in the original plan, 16 have been completed and progress is underway on 14 more. The progress includes key measures like:

  • Getting more than 26,000 units of housing built or in progress in communities all over the province.
  • Updating the Residential Tenancy Act to improve security for tenants facing eviction.
  • Reducing the maximum annual rent increase to 2% and closing the loophole landlords used to get around rent controls.
  • Increasing the foreign buyers tax to 20%.
  • Introducing the speculation and vacancy tax, which targets empty properties in high-demand areas and has helped put homes back on the rental market.
  • Creating the Land Owner Transparency Registry to end hidden ownership in real estate.
  • Cracking down on tax evasion in condo presale assignments through the Condo and Strata Assignment Integrity Register.

So far, the Province has taken steps on more than half of the actions in the plan to build the homes that people need, crack down on tax fraud, close loopholes, help stabilize the real estate market and build partnerships for affordability in every B.C. community.

A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in B.C. is available online: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC

Child care: supporting B.C. families now and into recovery

Quality, affordable and inclusive child care is critical to families, communities and the economy. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of child care as an economic driver. Without reliable access to child care, many parents have to put their careers on hold, move to a different community or decide against having more children. That’s why government has made historic investments toward a universal and inclusive child care system in B.C. over the last three years. When families are able to fully participate in the economy, it supports businesses, helps families and lifts children out of poverty.

In 2018, government introduced a $1-billion child care plan that was the most significant investment in child care in B.C.’s history. These investments in quality, affordable and close-to-home child care for thousands of children have made life better for families in every part of B.C. This included:

  • Funding for nearly 26,000 new licensed child care spaces underway throughout B.C.
  • Reducing parent fees by up to $350 per month for more than 69,000 children and their families through the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative.
  • Reducing fees by up to $1,250 a month per child through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which helps offset costs for 63,000 children from low- and middle-income families.
  • A $2-an-hour wage increase for early childhood educators (ECEs) in licensed facilities.

Budget 2021 builds on these improvements through an additional $233 million over three years in base funding to advance Childcare BC, the Province’s 10-year plan. On top of thousands of new spaces that will be funded each year under the New Spaces Fund, investments will increase the number of families getting child care that costs $10 a day or less, increase no-cost child care spaces for Indigenous families, and further improve ECE wages to support the creation of high-quality spaces close to home. This brings total child care funding up to nearly $2.3 billion over the fiscal plan.

Budget 2021 will:

  • More than double the number of children who can get care for $10 a day or less through an expansion of the Universal Child Care Prototype Program. This investment will add 75 more child care centres to the program, increasing the number of spaces by approximately 3,750.
  • Help more families access child care on school grounds by expanding the Seamless Day pilot program from four school districts to 24.
  • Support approximately 11,000 ECEs in licensed child care centres and encourage better recruitment and retention in the sector by doubling the ECE wage enhancement to $4 an hour.
    • These wage enhancements have helped increased ECE median wages to almost $23 an hour, encouraging more people to pursue this work as a career.
  • Support the creation of 400 new spaces for the Aboriginal Head Start program, for a total of 1,000 spaces in more than 30 communities throughout B.C. The program provides culturally relevant child care and early learning at no cost to Indigenous families through partnerships with the Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC and the First Nations Health Authority.
  • Support thousands of new child care spaces through the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund.
  • Help almost 2,000 more families access Supported Child Development and Aboriginal Supported Child Development programs and increase the hours of support for children already enrolled to help ensure children with support needs can fully access, participate in and benefit from programming.
  • Invest an additional $20 million in health and safety grants to help child care providers with the cost of keeping centres safe through the pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit B.C., government had already been investing in the child care sector, recognizing how critical it was to families. The importance of these investments became even clearer at the start of the pandemic, when some parents, particularly women, had to quickly step away from work to care for children and senior parents. For others, the pandemic meant juggling caring for their children and supporting their education at home while trying to work. Building a universal and inclusive child care system for B.C. families will help ensure that parents who have stepped back from their employment or educational goals to perform crucial care work are able to return to their careers or training.

To help support child care providers and keep facilities from closing, government provided child care operators with nearly $320 million in emergency funding between April 1 and Aug. 31, 2020. B.C. was the only jurisdiction in Canada to provide this level of support for the sector, regardless of whether families chose to temporarily withdraw their children or if operators chose to temporarily close.

An additional $99 million in 2020-21 as part of the StrongerBC Economic Recovery Plan helped families and child care providers through Health and Safety Grants, a Child Care Rapid Renovation Fund and the Aboriginal Head Start Land-based Project, and accelerated more than 3,200 child care spaces through the New Spaces Fund.

Child care will continue to play a key role as B.C. moves toward recovery. The events of the past year have shone a light on how child care supports families, by enabling parents – especially women – to go back to work. It supports business owners who are able to hire parents as they re-enter the workforce, and it helps build strong local economies that benefit everyone in the community. Together, these investments have positioned the child care sector to support families and B.C.’s economic recovery.