The B.C. government is right to consider budget deficit secondary


Increased funding towards climate change, homelessness, and child care a good sign

Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash.

On Feb. 22, the B.C. government announced the 2022-2023 budget plan — with the cheesy motto “Stronger Together.” As cliché as this statement sounds, it does somewhat reflect the budget expenditures. Past governments have been far too concerned about the deficit. Now, a new era has emerged where costs can be considered secondary.   

From my perspective, human emergency and everyday suffering override massive deficits. Wealthy governments should not be concerned with how much programs and services cost as long as it is for the common welfare of the people. To a certain extent, this notion is being reflected in the new B.C. budget.

Critics of the BC NDP government are concerned with the burgeoning deficit, but I am not. Human lives and social welfare matter more to me than a red figure on a piece of paper.

The projected $5.461 billion budget deficit of the next fiscal year should not be alarming — last fiscal year’s budget deficit was projected to be $9.698 billion. Even though there is increased spending in this year’s budget, the projected deficit is much less.       

In recent times, B.C. has been ravaged with floods, wildfires, a homelessness crisis, and child care problems. These are only some of the socio-environmental issues that the provincial budget is addressing, and they will be my main focus in this piece.

child care needs of families have been exacerbated during the pandemic. However, the B.C. government has recently been trying to rectify child care problems that parents have faced. 

In the budget, the B.C. government has committed to lowering the average child care cost for children under six to about $20 a day by the end of the fiscal year, and to creating 40 000 child care spaces in the next seven years to mitigate the adverse effects of the child care crisis. Thus, decent progress has been made towards a $10 a day child care fee and more available spaces for working parents to put their children in.

Moreover, climate change is real — we are in the midst of it. Recent floods in B.C. that have destroyed the livelihood of farmers in the province, especially the Abbotsford region, is a prime example of it. Other recent examples include the heat dome last summer and increased wildfire activity.

To repair last year’s flooding damages, the B.C. government has allocated $1.5 billion. These funds will be much-needed in the near future to rebuild damaged infrastructure. We are living in unprecedented times, and the B.C. government will need significant cash for damage control since we’ve clearly missed the boat on preventing climate change altogether. 

For fighting climate change, the B.C. government is aiming to spend a value of more than $1 billion over the next three years. Part of that $1 billion amount is going towards the removal of provincial state tax on net zero emission cars.

The current NDP government is committed to reducing carbon emissions, and that should be the case as a recent climate change report has indicated that carbon dioxide emissions in B.C. rose by 3 per cent from 2017-2018.

On top of these issues, B.C. has been in a homelessness crisis for what feels like a century. Selina Robinson, the minister of finance, unveiled during the budget press conference that the B.C. government will pay new rent subsidies to more than 3 000 people in the unhoused community so that they can move into permanent housing. 

The BC NDP’s homelessness initiatives will only be effective if they fulfill their 2018 promise to make 114 000 affordable homes over 10 years.

Before the pandemic, I used to go to the U.S. via the Peace Arch border crossing a lot. Whenever I would enter back into B.C., there would be a sign welcoming me to “the best place on earth.” Well, child care problems, a homelessness crisis, and climate change issues might suggest the contrary. More needs to be done by the B.C. government to cement themselves as the best place in the world. The new budget proposal is a baby step towards that notion.

The budget is on the right track towards solving social and environmental issues. Adopting this approach is so much more critical than moaning about a proposed budget deficit.