On November 13, 2014, the BC Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services released its Budget 2015 Consultations report. Find it online at www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/finance
Below are highlights and excerpts. See also the summary of recommendations starting page 38 of the report
Online survey (pages 2-3)
Of the more than 1,200 responses to the online survey, raising taxes was the number-one priority for two of the survey questions (to fund a balanced budget and an increase in public services). K-12 and post-secondary education was the first priority for program spending.
Poverty reduction (page 26)
The submission by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition stated that society as a whole bears the costs of poverty, through higher public health care costs, increased policing and crime costs, lost productivity, and foregone economic activity. They estimated that poverty in BC represents a direct cost to government alone of $2.2 to $2.3 billion annually.
The Committee was presented with several proposals on how to reduce poverty, the most common of which was for the provincial government to invest in a poverty reduction plan. First Call proposed the adoption of a comprehensive plan with legislated targets and timelines, and the appointment of a cabinet minister to achieve the goal of reducing BC’s child poverty rate to 7 percent or lower by 2020. Other submissions called for other measures to reduce poverty through enhancements to income assistance rates and increases to the minimum wage. A number of written submissions also called on government to end the clawback of child support from single parents on income assistance.
Recommendation #37. Introduce a comprehensive poverty reduction plan, and review income assistance rates, the minimum wage, and clawback of child support payments.
Child care (page 27)
Recommendations were presented to the Committee to increase investments in public child care. In Surrey, the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of British Columbia called for endorsement of their $10-a-day child care plan, a proposal raised in several previous budget consultations. Developed in partnership with the Early Childhood Educators of BC, the plan was described as the basis for a quality, affordable, and accessible child care system.
Recommendation #40. Provide funding and support for the development and implementation of a child care plan.
Healthy living (page 16): Recommendation #19. Continue efforts to promote healthy living though taxation policies that discourage tobacco use, sugar-sweetened beverages, and other sources of chronic disease.
Child and youth mental health (page 18): Recommendation #17. Provide new investments for prevention and treatment of mental disorders in children and youth, including initiatives that foster cross-sector collaboration and integrated service delivery.
K-12 education (page 19): Recommendation #22. Provide stable, predictable, and adequate funding to enable school districts to fulfill their responsibility to provide continued equitable access to quality public education, and to meet required repair and maintenance needs.
Children and youth with special needs (page 20): Recommendation #25. Provide resources to identify and address the growing number of students with special needs and those with minimal English language skills.
Student financial aid (page 23): Recommendations #34. Establish a student grant program that addresses student needs and provides incentives for
completion; and #35. Reduce the interest charged on BC student loans and review existing eligibility requirements for student loans.
See news coverage in the Globe and Mail: B.C. finance committee backs balanced budgets, but calls for social assistance hikes
And the Vancouver Sun: B.C. schools need stable, predictable funding, budget committee says