Budget boosts low-income families

Health, highways, tax credits unroll as key components

The B.C. Liberal government’s third consecutive balanced budget presented Feb. 17 brings a surprise for single parents on income assistance.

Child support payments will be fully exempted from income assistance calculations, allowing an additional $32 million over three years for about 3,200 low-income families in the province.

This is an abrupt turn-about by Premier Christy Clark who, after taking flack from the NDP for clawing back child support late last year, had stated the province “couldn’t afford” to do it.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says now that the budget is balanced, it is “a great thing” that this money has been allocated.

“It will certainly help single parents whose child support hasn’t been going to them … to afford some of things they haven’t been able to in the past for their children.”

Other budget boosts for low-income earners include $20 million to fuel income assistance programs and a $5 million increase to the British Columbia tax reduction credit.

Individuals earning $19,000 a year (or less) will no longer pay provincial income tax.

Disabled residents can benefit from $106 million in additional funding over three years for Community Living B.C.

Barnett explains this money is earmarked to assist adults with disabilities, but there are other programs for the children.

The budget also includes an increase of almost $3 billion to the Ministry of Health over three years.

In addition, the province has pledged to provide up to $12.5 million to the Canadian Cancer Society towards establishing a world-class cancer prevention centre in Vancouver.

Another $2.7 billion is earmarked for health infrastructure, including B.C.’s Children’s and Women’s hospitals & health centre, which Barnett notes will benefit some of her local constituents.

“But, I will still be working for the health-care facilities in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

“The costs of health care increase daily, and … with new technology and finding new medicines for people to live longer and healthier, the [health] budgets will continually go up.”

She says her constituents need a new hospital in Williams Lake, and she is also working on “any upgrades we can get” for the health centres in 100 Mile House from the available (but non-specific) money allocated for these improvements.

The budget’s $2.9 billion for transportation investments include the Cariboo’s Highway 1 improvements, Barnett notes.

“The more we can improve the Cariboo Connector and all our transportation systems the better off we are. But it will create jobs and it will continue to make our roads safer.”

The MLA says the $3 million for a new children’s fitness equipment tax credit will allow families to claim up to $250 a year for equipment purchases, on top of the current $500 children’s fitness and arts tax credit.

In addition to helping finances at tax time, this will encourage parents to ensure children stay fit and participate in sports and arts programs, Barnett explains.