Story by Catherine Garrett, Vista Radio staff
The province is projecting a $9.7 billion deficit for 2021-2022, as the focus continues to be on COVID-19 recovery.
Finance minister Selina Robinson says the deficit is lower than the $13.6 billion predicted last fall due to less government spending.
In its budget presented today (Tuesday), the province is looking at spending $3.5 billion more than last year.
Spending has been allocated to build schools and hospitals, as well as transit and roads, Robinson says, which will create over 85,000 jobs.
$3.1 billion will be earmarked for healthcare, including $500 million for the ongoing overdose crisis.
There will be $900 million in new funding for testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, and the vaccine rollout, and the B.C. Recovery Benefit will also continue.
“Through the adversity we have faced in the last year, we have witnessed the resilience of British Columbians time and again as communities rose to the challenge of COVID-19. As we continue to roll out the largest vaccination effort in our province’s history, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Robinson.
“We know a recovery won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on the things that matter most to people, we can ensure there are better days ahead for everyone.”
Reducing emissions through an additional $506 million in CleanBC investments will also be a priority.
The province also plans to continue addressing systemic racism in healthcare, which it says ensures Indigenous peoples have access to culturally appropriate care.
In addition, 400 more spaces will be created through the Aboriginal Head Start program that provides culturally relevant child care for Indigenous families.
Robinson predicts GDP growth to reach 4.4 percent this year, and slightly lower in 2022 at 3.8 percent.
Wage enhancement for early childhood educators will go up by $4 an hour, and more families will have access to $10 a day daycare.
Starting in September, public transportation will be free for children 12 and under.
One-hundred new campsites will be added every year, starting in 2022, and $120 million will be spent to help the tourism sector, including grants to help prepare for future visitors through new infrastructure like trails and airport improvements.