The BC Government introduced the 2017 provincial budget today.

“The BC Government budget is built for business & investments in a time of global economic uncertainty,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. The investments for business, the economy, and for Surrey are reflected in the Surrey Board of Trade’s top policy priority areas:

Health Care:
a) Surrey Board of Trade’s Policy on Elimination/Review of MSP: Good first step to see MSP Premiums cut in half for those with family net income of up to $120,000. The Surrey Board of Trade’s policy is the elimination of the MSP.
b) Health Funding: Increased to 41% – good news – waiting for community allocations. We were pleased to see funding to support government’s $100-million, three-year enhancement in services addressing mental health and substance use issues, particularly for youth. This is important for Surrey.

Fiscal Responsibility:
A balanced budget is good, however, the focus needs to be on the total debt, which has risen 75%, from $45 billion in 2010/11 to $77.7 billion by 2019/20. We realize that the total debt, which includes Crown Corp. debt, as well as taxpayer-supported debt (hospitals, etc.) and operating debt is decreasing – and is a good step.

Tax Reduction:
The Surrey Board of Trade applauds the elimination of PST on electricity over the next 2 years for all businesses. Good bottom-line savings. The Surrey Board of Trade continues to call for a review or overhaul of the onerously administratively burden of the PST and calls for government to revisit a Value Added Tax System in BC to harness further capital investments and business investments.

Real Estate:
This year, BC forecasts the property transfer tax revenue to drop significantly, due to reduced sales activity after the foreign buyers’ tax was introduced last year to cool the market. The additional 15% transfer tax on foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver – since revised to exclude foreigners with work permits – is expected to make up $150 million of the total transfer tax in the coming year.

International Trade:
The Surrey Board of Trade was pleased to see continued investments in global trade. The Surrey Board of Trade’s International Trade Centre will continue our collaborative work and trade services with our global partners. The Surrey Board of Trade’s next Global Trip is in April to Dubai. We observed a $6 million investment over 3 years to ASEAN countries and a focus on softwood lumber exports to China.

The Surrey Board of Trade didn’t observe anything specific to the overall Mayor’s Regional Plan for Transit and Transportation investments in this BC Budget, but we know that the BC Government is committed to this plan. We observed the mention of a $3.5 billion George Massey Tunnel bridge replacement project, which for the first time has appeared in government financial figures at $583 million to be spent this coming year.

Education Funding:
a) K-12 Education: $217M in the budget was announced for Surrey in late January. In general, investments were announced that included: $740M over 3 years for K-12 education and $13.7 Billion on infrastructure (14.6% on education!). We will know the breakdown of Surrey allocations in March.
b) Post-Secondary Funding: There have been significant capital investments for SFU and KPU in the past year. The continued focus of additional seat allocations (and education in general) and enhanced operational needs in Surrey to support student spaces will continue to be a policy priority for the Surrey Board of Trade.

Public Safety:
Continued focus on investments and strategies for the Guns & Gang office is good for Surrey, as the Surrey Board of Trade continues in collaboration with the City of Surrey to attract business and good quality jobs. Public Safety is important to ensure we have a livable city.  The Surrey Board of Trade will be announcing business public safety initiatives later this year.

Business Investments:
The extension of the scientific research and experimental development tax credits, as well as the mining flow-through share tax credit, is also good news as BC seeks to attract investment and develop a more innovative economy.

Surrey has the most number of manufacturers in BC, and a growing health & technology hub. Enhancing sector tax credits and venture capital to support innovation and commercialization needs to happen to diversify Surrey’s economy and create good quality jobs.

Social Infrastructure Spending:
The Surrey Board of Trade has been a leader in developing policy and instigating change around social investments from a business lens. Observations in this area for the BC Budget were:

a) Affordable Housing: Government has committed $920 million to support the creation of over 5,300 affordable housing units. It was observed that the budget did not include any mechanisms to encourage municipalities to increase density along proposed transit lines in Vancouver and Surrey, though budget documents make reference to unspecified possible incentives to reward municipalities that can clear an estimated backlog of 115,000 affordable housing units in local development planning stages.
b)    Child Care: A good first step is to increase childcare spaces with an investment of $20 million for child care, including up to 2,000 new child care spaces. The goal is to create 13,000 new childcare spaces between 2014 and 2020 by the BC government. In Surrey alone, there is a deficit of over 12,000 childcare spaces.

The BC budget is unlikely to pass before the BC Election, and is subject to change by whichever party wins the May 9 election.