Explainer: What to expect from B.C.’s 2023 budget

Health care, housing, and the high cost of living are big issues the budget addresses

The B.C. government released its budget on Feb. 28 with funds to address health care, housing, and the high cost of living as some of the biggest issues. (Shutterstock/Darryl Brooks)

The B.C. government released its budget on Feb. 28 with funds to address health care, housing, and the high cost of living as some of the biggest issues. (Shutterstock/Darryl Brooks)

The government of British Columbia released its 2023 budget on Feb. 28, addressing global inflation, rising unaffordability, and economic uncertainty as the key challenges affecting British Columbians.

Presented by Minister of Finance Katrine Conroy in the legislature, the provincial budget dedicates funding towards strengthening the public healthcare system, affordable housing, a sustainable economy, and safety.

“Some believe we should respond to uncertainty by pulling back. By making cuts that reduce services. Or by making people pay out of pocket for tolls and private health care,” Conroy said in her budget speech. “That’s not what British Columbians want. And that’s not our government’s approach.”

The government will invest about $6.4 billion over three years in health care, the area with the most investments in the budget. The province hopes to improve cancer detection, prevention and treatment, and employ more health care workers.

This investment will also include plans to increase treatment and recovery units for British Columbians struggling with mental health and addictions, while expanding regional services that treat both issues together.

“Our goal is to stop the cycle of evictions, shelters, emergency rooms and jails for those struggling with mental-health and addictions,” Conroy said.

The budget also dedicates about $1.3 billion over the next three years to help with the cost of living. Part of the funding will be used to make prescription contraceptives free for all residents starting April 1, setting B.C. as the first to do so in Canada.

“For someone who pays $25 a month for birth control pills, that’s $300 in savings every year,” Conroy said. “And as much as $10,000 in savings over their lifetime.”

The plan will fully cover the costs of prescription contraceptives, copper IUDs, and Plan B pills.

For post-secondary students, the government will double weekly student loan maximums from $110 to $220 for individuals and $140 to $280 for students with dependents in June. Additionally, post-secondary students will not have to start repaying their loan until they earn $40,000 in income by Aug. 1, which is a $15,000 increase from the previous minimum income level. 

Moderate and low-income renters can expect up to $400 in tax credit with an income of $60,000 or less for one year in spring 2024. Conroy said they expect this will benefit more than 80 per cent of renters across the province. 

The budget dedicates $4.2 billion over three years in operating and capital funding to build thousands of homes, which includes housing near public transit and post-secondary schools. This funding will also go towards creating new support teams in regions with large encampments and increasing access to supportive housing for homeless people.

The government will also increase the Climate Action Tax Credit after federal guidelines will prompt the tax to go up in April to lower carbon emissions in B.C.

“Where a family of four would have received a total of $500 last year, that same family will receive almost $900 starting in July,” Conroy said.

“By 2030, we expect a significant majority of people who receive the credit will receive more than they pay in carbon tax costs.”

The budget dedicates about $460 million over three years towards community safety. The government hopes to add about 255 more RCMP officers, start two new programs for prosecuting repeat offenders, improve crisis responses, and expand access to justice services.

The government projects over a $4 billion deficit in 2023-2024, which will reduce to $3 billion in 2025-2026.

“Brick by brick and board by board, we are building a brighter future for everyone who calls our province home,” Conroy said.