Kamloops stakeholders react to B.C budget

By Vanessa Ybarra
February 22, 2017 - 5:45pm

KAMLOOPS — On Tuesday the B.C. Liberals delivered their fifth consecutive balanced budget and from all accounts, B.C classrooms and the Health Ministry stand to benefit the most.

The education budget will increase by $470-million over the next three years, while health programs will receive a significant increase of $4.2-billion, with a heavy emphasis on funding mental health and substance issues for youth.

This year's Liberal budget may be balanced, but does it provide enough support to local sectors in Kamloops?

WATCH: Full report by Vanessa Ybarra

With at least a quarter of School District 73 students bussing to-and-from class, officials say the Liberals decision to keep funding transportation services is a big win.

"It was very nice to see education as one of the strong pillars of the education budget," said Meghan Wade, Chair of School District 73. "For us it allows us to look on a continual basis at our bus routes, our funding around some of our positions, looking at more support in the area of transportation so seeing that come forward is very significant for our district."

With an election looming, it comes as no surprise the 2017 budget packed numerous savings for employers big and small, one of them a corporate income tax rate cut from 2.5% to 2% as well eliminating PST payments on electrical bills for industrial businesses.

"The PST on electricity was something that we had been advocating for," said Paul Ross, First Vice-President of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce. "Luckily they got rid of it for us, essentially putting more money in our pockets."

While Tuesday's budget received high praise from some quarters, Ask Wellness workers say it fell short in supporting low-income residents.

In Kamloops more than 5,000 residents receive $610 in low-income assistance each month from the government, not nearly enough to afford social-housing units such as the ones at CrossRoads downtown that rent for close to $500 a month.

With no mention of low-income improvements in the budget, staff say it's another example of the government falling short.

"People still only receive $375 for shelter and there is no place in the city that I know of, aside from a few social housing projects, that receive close to that," said Bog Hughes, Executive Director for Ask Wellness. "People are having to dip into their food money to pay rent, it's unacceptable, so I think yesterday's budget missed the mark."

Price reductions to B.C's Medical Services Plan was one of the most notable items included in the Liberal budget.

As of January, MSP charges will be reduced by 50%  for families with a household net income up to $120,000, saving an average family of four $900 a year.

Police say incident involving a male and students Wednesday is not suspicious