Finance Minister Carole James presents details of her first budget update in Victoria Monday. (Tom Fletcher/

NDP budget panned

The NDP’s financial strategy is drawing heavy fire from the opposition.

Finance Minister Carole James presented a budget update Monday, the first since the NDP took power this summer.

“A lot of the announcements were a regurgitating of items we had previously announced. The reduction in MSP premiums had been previously announced,” said Greg Kyllo, Shuswap Liberal MLA.

There will be a 50 per cent cut in Medical Services Plan premiums, with a goal of eliminating premiums over four years.

For Kyllo, a major concern is the NDP’s decision to scrap the requirement that the carbon tax to be revenue-neutral.

“The NDP is looking at all of the carbon tax to apply funding to their pet projects,” he said.

In a release, the government says carbon tax revenues will, “support families and fund green initiatives that help address the province’s climate action commitments.”

James defends the government’s approach.

“Less than eight weeks after forming government, we have taken the first steps to invest in the people of B.C. with this budget update. We’ve made some immediate investments while we work toward our first full budget in February,” she said in a release.

” We’re putting people first by improving the services they need and making their lives more affordable while supporting a strong, sustainable economy that provides good jobs throughout our province.”

The budget update includes:

* $208 million for the construction of over 1,700 new units of affordable rental housing;

* $291 million to support the construction of 2,000 modular housing units for people who are homeless and more than $170 million over three years to provide 24/7 staffing and support services

“There’s some expensive housing initiatives which people are happy to see but you have to pay for them,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee Liberal MLA, adding that the NDP is scrapping projects that create jobs like Site and the Massey bridge.

“I’m concerned the money won’t be there if the income does down.”

The budget also calls for $472 million to provide an increase of $100 per month for both income and disability assistance, and a $681-million increase for B.C.’s kindergarten-to-Grade 12 education system over three years.

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