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Christy Clark’s Election Goodies Budget Clearly Aimed At Getting Votes On May 9

Premier Christy Clark put out her last budget before the British Columbia goes to the polls on May 9 and so it’s no surprise that it had goodies for the electorate as bait to vote her government back to power despite a dismal record of use fees and increases to everything from ICBC to Hydro and other cost increases for taxpayers not to mention increases in MSP, which under the BC Liberals watched doubled in premiums.

VICTORIA — Premier Christy Clark put out her last budget before the British Columbia goes to the polls on May 9 and so it’s no surprise that it had goodies for the electorate as bait to vote her government back to power despite a dismal record of use fees and increases to everything from ICBC to Hydro and other cost increases for taxpayers not to mention increases in MSP, which under the BC Liberals watched doubled in premiums.

So that’s where Clark cut first, promising to half the MSP premiums, thereby cutting nearly $1 billions in medical service collections from families and individuals. There is also small business tax reduction and carefully targeted spending increases on education, health and child welfare in a 2017-18 budget that projects a fifth consecutive surplus.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Tuesday the government will move to eliminate unpopular medical service plan premiums, starting with a 50-per-cent cut next year that will see a family earning up to $120,000 annually saving up to $900 in 2018.

Last week, the government announced it was in the financial position to pay back British Columbians after years of penny pinching, and de Jong says it identified the medical premiums as having the greatest impact for families.

The premium brings about $2.5 billion in annual revenues for the BC government but the cut won’t occur until way after the election beginning on Jan. 1, 2018.

Economist Iglika Ivanova of the centre for policy alternatives said she’s concerned the government gave up almost $1 billion in revenues by cutting the premium. The government could have explored tax increases for corporations and high-income earners to recover the revenue, she said.

The budget includes spending increases in areas where the government has weathered political controversy: education, housing and child welfare.

De Jong said the Children and Family Development Ministry will receive a budget boost of $287 million over three years to support children, youth and their families. He said $120 million will go toward child welfare issues for indigenous children.

The budget includes $320 million over three years to work towards a final agreement with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation on class size and the number of children with special needs in classrooms. The teachers’ union has said it could cost up to $300 million annually to address the court decision.

The total increase in the education budget is $740 million.

Highlights of 2017-18 budget

* $287 million over the next three years to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, of which $120 million is to begin addressing recommendations of the Grand Chief Ed John Report on Indigenous Child Welfare.

* $199 million to fund a $600 per year increase to income assistance rates for persons with disabilities.

* $175 million to provide income assistance supports for those in need, including $8 million to exempt additional child-related benefits, expected to help 600 families and 1,000 children.

* $135 million over three years for community living services, primarily via Community Living BC.

*  Medical Service Premiums will be cut starting Jan. 1, 2018, by 50 per cent for households with annual net income up to $120,000, leaving a typical family of four paying $900 a year less next year.

*Education spending will increase by $740 million over three years, with $320 million of that total to cover the costs of ongoing negotiations with the teachers’ union after the province lost a Supreme Court of Canada decision on class size related to special-needs children.

* Provincial sales tax on electricity for business will be eliminated over the next two years, saving $164 million by 2019-20.

* The small business corporate income tax rate will be reduced to two per cent from 2.5 per cent.

*An increase in the threshold in the first-time homebuyers program to $500,000, which the government estimates will save up to $8,000 in property transfer tax for people buying their first home.

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