No surprises in provincial budget, says Nanaimo MLA

NANAIMO – Leonard Krog said he was hoping for a surprise in the provincial budget after a lackluster throne speech.

Leonard Krog, NDP MLA for Nanaimo, said he was hoping for a surprise when the provincial budget was announced on Tuesday.

Instead, the budget reiterated what was outlined in the throne speech a week earlier and included a tax cut for the wealthiest two per cent in the province and an increase in fees for everyone else, he said.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced details of a balanced budget in the legislature, highlighting help for low-income families, like an end to the social assistance clawback of child-support payments and an increase to the income tax exemption from $18,000 to $19,000.

An early childhood tax benefit begins April 1, with up to $660 a year for each child up to the age of six, designed to assist with child-care costs.

This is also the year the province’s training and education savings grant begins to be paid out for children who reach six years old.

It is a one-time payment of $1,200 for children born since Jan. 1, 2007, to be placed in a registered education savings plan.

But Krog said it’s not enough – B.C. still ranks below the national average on per capita education spending, while fees for things like ICBC, B.C. Hydro and Medical Services Plan continue to increase, with MSP rates increasing again after a 30-per-cent jump in the past five years.

De Jong said a scheduled four-per cent increase in B.C. Ferries fares will also go ahead as scheduled April 1.

“This is a costly province to live in,” Krog said.

After an additional $3 billion to the health care budget and $576 million more for education over the next three years, the surplus for 2015-16 is projected to be $284 million.

A surplus of almost $900 million is predicted for the current budget.

– with files from Tom Fletcher