COURTENAY, B.C- Courtenay Comox MLA Ronna Rae Leonard believes the new provincial budget will give British Columbia a “whole new look”.

The budget was released yesterday, with large investments in childcare, housing, and other policy areas. Among the promises was a plan to build 114,000 rental units through partnerships, and expand incentives for universities to build more student housing.

According to Leonard, the student housing promise will be useful for North Island College.

“I do know that North Island College, just like colleges and universities throughout the province, have been interested in being able to provide for student housing,” said Leonard.

“So this is an opportunity that North Island College can certainly be having a look at.”

A reduction in ferry prices, as well as the freezing of ticket prices on major routes, was included in the budget. Leonard believed this would be positively received in the Comox Valley.

“The smaller routes, which include Denman, Hornby, and Powell River, will be seeing a 15 per cent reduction in their fares, starting April 1st, so that’s pretty exciting,” said Leonard.

“I know that seniors will be pleased to hear that they can travel for free once again from Monday to Thursday.”

She was also happy with the move to offer more child-care options in the province. The budget had included $1 billion in spending for child care over the next three years, including a proposed benefit worth $1250 per month to 86,000 families.

22,000 new spaces in childcare are also planned, with reduced fees and increased funding for more child-care licenses.

“When you think about nurses and police who do shift work and need access to quality day care, that’s part of the focus, as well as the people who are earning $40,000 per year and less, they’ll be getting free childcare,” said Leonard.

“It’s an astounding and wonderful opportunity to get ahead.”

The commitments will be funded with improved revenue forecasts as well as from new revenue sources like a speculation tax, and increases in the foreign buyers’ tax, and an employer health tax to allow for the full elimination of MSP premiums.

Overall, Leonard believed the impact of the budget would be felt for “generations”.

“Between childcare, housing, and infrastructure investments, it’ll be a whole new look to British Columbia,” said Leonard.