BC Minister of Finance Selina Robinson met with Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce members today to address your questions about the province's 2022 Budget, unveiled yesterday.
Minister Robinson expects economic growth even as provincial debt increases.
This year's $71 billion budget is forecast to have a deficit of $5.5 billion, followed by a $4.2 billion deficit in 2023/24. Robinson said the main reasons for the deficits are the anticipated costs of rebuilding damaged transportation infrastructure to withstand future climate events.
Asked whether the province planned to ease the burdens of the EHT — which took $207 million more than anticipated from BC employers last year — or paid sick days, the minister defended the government's current policies. She also acknowledged concerns about linking the minimum wage to inflation and said she will work to make the change as smooth and predictable as possible for business.
Greater Victoria is getting two complex care facilities, though specific locations were not announced. The budget also includes $84 million over three years for planning and capital funding for upgrading the Belleville Terminal.
The tourism sector has been allocated $25 million to help with recovery efforts, though a further $915 million was set aside for potential pandemic-related expenses, including health care costs or economic recovery funding.
Greater Victoria is also in line for numerous “bus and shoulder” expansions to improve regional transit, and money has been earmarked for the transit hub at Uptown in Saanich.
“The Chamber has long advocated for child care as an investment in our economy, and we applaud the province’s commitment to adding 40,000 new spaces within seven years. We also are encouraged by some of the steps to address our lack of housing supply,” Williams said.
Throne speeches are typically more pomp than particulars, and yesterday's ceremonial start to a new session at the BC Legislature was no exception. However, there were a few items of interest to business in Greater Victoria.
Minimum wage, which went through a series of increases to reach $15.20/hour in BC, will now be tied to the rate of inflation.
The housing market, under pressure due to a lack of supply, will soon face a regulated "cooling off period" for buyers.
A new plan is being developed to train British Columbians to meet the one million job openings expected in the next 10 years.
There were also mentions of modernizing the Royal BC Museum, taking action on reconciliation and improving child care by making it a function of the Ministry of Education.
"What we didn't hear was an adequate plan to help business by reducing unfair costs such as the Employer Health Tax, or cutting red tape," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "We're looking forward to hearing details next week about how government will help business and build resilience in our economy."
Chamber Event: A conversation with BC's Finance Minister on Feb. 23
A new state-of-the-art Royal BC Museum is being planned to replace the existing facility. The news was announced by BC's Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark.
The museum began operations 135 years ago and is a major attraction in our region. Minister Mark said the current facility doesn't meet modern safety or accessibility standards.
"A new and modern museum is long overdue, for the safety of all visitors, to remove barriers so everyone can access it and to keep our irreplaceable collections safe," Mark states. "Continuing on without a major redevelopment is not an option for anyone serious about the stewardship of BC’s history and culture. Our goal is to build a state-of-the-art facility that provides an educational and cultural legacy for the province while at the same time brings significant economic and social benefits to the region."
The provincial government's financial picture was better than expected in the first quarter, with the year-end deficit projected to be $4.8 billion — about half of what was initially forecast five months ago in the 2021 budget.
The Chamber recently presented to BC's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to advocate for policies that will help grow the economy and allow the province to return to budget surpluses.
The updated numbers show that BC's economy is rebounding, and that the province has the capacity to continue helping hard hit sectors, such as tourism and transportation, until they can fully participate in the recovery.
On April 27, BC's Minister of Finance Selina Robinson provided Chamber members with an overview of the recently unveiled budget and she answered questions about the state of the province's economy.
If you missed seeing it live, you can still watch a recording of the event to hear what Minister Robinson had to say about government plans to help business and families, and implement new initiatives to ensure our economic recovery continues.
Request Access to the Video
On Tuesday, The Chamber held our 2020 Annual General Meeting, sponsored by Fortis BC, with a special panel featuring mayors from four Greater Victoria municipalities.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, Colwood Mayor Rob Martin and View Royal Mayor David Screech spoke about affordable housing, amalgamation, the financial impact of COVID-19 and the need to provide mental health services to address homelessness.
"It was a great forum and truly illustrated what makes our region so diverse," says Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who moderated the panel. "We share a lot of challenges across Greater Victoria and there are definitely opportunities to adopt best practices. But there are also differences that we need celebrate as we continue to advocate for better governance for our region."
Election Panels a chance to hear from local candidates
The Chamber is proud to bring you a series of Election Panels featuring candidates running for the three major parties in five of Greater Victoria's electoral districts.
On Tuesday, Chamber CEO Bruce Williams moderated a panel for Victoria-Beacon Hill.
Earlier today, we featured Oak Bay-Gordon Head. Tomorrow, we host candidates in Saanich South. On Friday, it's Esquimalt-Metchosin and, next Tuesday, we have candidates from Victoria-Swan Lake.
"We're asking questions that reflect regional concerns, such as child care and transportation, as well as topics that are more specific to each electoral district," says Williams, who spoke to CFAX yesterday about The Chamber's efforts to host the 2020 Election Panels.
The Chamber is setting up Election Panels to help our members get information on candidates running in Greater Victoria for the provincial election on Oct. 24.
We'll be collaborating with community chambers so make sure to save the following dates and plan to watch via Facebook Live!
Candidates have until 1 pm on Oct. 2 to register, so keep reading BizNews for the latest on when the Election Panels will be held, and who is running in your riding.