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Budget relief ‘lacking’ for citizens: Greater Vernon Chamber

The statement comes after the 2023 B.C Budget was presented in the Legislature on Tuesday
Minister of Finance Katrine Conroy tables her first budget in the legislative assembly at legislature in Victoria on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. (The Canadian Press-Chad Hipolito)

The Greater Vernon Chamber believes that the 2023 B.C budget does little for citizens looking for immediate financial relief.

The news comes after finance minister Katrine Conroy presented the provincial budget in the Legislature on Feb. 28.

“At a time when businesses large and small are experiencing increased cost pressures due to labour, fuel and supply chains, this budget provides no tangible assistance that will help entrepreneurs simply survive, never mind thrive,” said Chamber president Robin Cardew. “For the second year in a row, there is no tax relief related to regulatory programs such as employer-paid sick leave or the employer health tax.”

The Chamber does welcome the budget’s emphasis on training individuals to enter the workforce as the labour shortage continues to be the primary issue for members. But the Chamber says employers need a stable workforce now, not later, and is concerned the full Future Ready plan to maximize B.C.’s workforce will not be released until the spring.

“While there is new funding for small and medium sized businesses so that they can implement technology and solutions to labour market challenges, the Chamber is unsure of how that initiative will be rolled out or how onerous it could be for businesses with limited technological or financial resources.”

In terms of housing affordability, the budget refers to a renter’s tax credit, funding to get more attainable homes built throughout the province, and financial incentives for homeowners to build secondary suites.

“These initiatives sound positive but until we see the exact details of B.C.’s refreshed housing strategy this spring, it’s difficult to know if these actions will alleviate the housing crisis, particularly for those middle-income wage earners who have been priced out of the market and are critical to economic success,” said Cardew.

“The government’s budget backgrounder also makes no reference to private sector developers or the easing of financial burdens that would encourage developers to build homes for all income levels.”

After meeting with housing minister Ravi Kahlon earlier this year, the Chamber made recommendations regarding affordable housing, including increasing the property transfer tax threshold to reduce barriers to home ownership and providing employers with resources to provide employee housing. They were not included in the budget.

Budget 2023 also provides funding for mental health and substance use services.

“There is no question that any additional investment is beneficial, but we want to see concrete timelines for treatment and recovery beds and that operational dollars are also linked to capital expenses. We also question why as public facilities are developed, those in need of immediate care cannot access private treatment and recovery for free,” said Cardew.

“We are pleased to see $169 million for additional complex care housing units as that is something our Chamber has advocated for. We are hopeful that Vernon will be identified as a priority location for housing that supports people living with complex mental health and substance-use challenges who are at risk of homelessness.”

Positive components of the budget include enhancing BC Parks and recreation sites and making communities more resistant to natural disasters.

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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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