British Columbia issues loom large in federal budget announcement

Credit: Andy Fillmore on Twitter

Province will be impacted by Trudeau government’s third budget

The third budget from Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, like every previous federal budget since the beginning of time, had both its supporters and detractors. Many applauded the measures announced by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in support of gender equality, as well as a plan to create a national pharmacare program.

Others contend that the Liberals don’t really have a plan in place and will not reach their election promise of balancing the budget come 2019.

From this side of the country, one thing is clear: B.C. issues had a major impact on the initiatives rolled out by the federal government, and the budget will continue to influence the province for years to come.

Opioid funds

The federal government pledged to spend $231 million over five years to address the opioid crisis, including $165 million this year.

While the opioid problem is certainly a countrywide disaster, B.C. has been ground zero for fentanyl overdoses and deaths. The Liberals didn’t indicate how exactly that spending would be dispersed, but Judy Darcy, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions, has some ideas.

“I hope that it’s based on need, rather than strictly population, because one-third of the deaths due to overdose are happening in British Columbia,” Darcy told the CBC.

Marijuana money

The government will spend 62.5 million on public education campaigns on the dangers of drug use and $10 million on research, including assessing the effect of legalization on mental health. This money comes on top of a previously announced $46-million investment into marijuana education.

Hopefully all that tax on the drug will be worthwhile. At least the military will be prepared.

Softwood lumber dispute

The Liberals are spending $191 million over five years to help offset the cost of NAFTA and WTO legal challenges related to the ongoing softwood lumber dispute. 

B.C. is the country’s largest exporter of softwood lumber by far (at over $4 billion in exports in 2017, it made more than double the next highest exporter, Quebec) and any additional funds for the dispute should help the province recover from years of unrest in the lumber industry.

Small business taxes

The budget introduced a plan to tax companies making between $50,000 and $150,000 on passive investments (those the companies are not actively involved in). Those companies will see a reduced amount of their active business income eligible for the small business tax rate (9 percent in 2019).

Companies making more than $150,000 in passive income will no longer be eligible for the small business tax rate.

Indigenous investments

The government will spend over five years to create a new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program. The program will replace the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy and help close the employment and pay gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The budget will also see more than $1.4 billion over six years for First Nations child and family services.