On Tuesday afternoon, the B.C. government released its budget and fiscal plan for the upcoming three years. The budget largely stays the course, with stalled investments in child care and housing.
It was a prime example of why it’s so important for voters to make their voices heard and tell their representatives what they want to see in the budget.
The B.C. government expects to collect an additional $1.3 billion in revenue this year. Little of this was allocated to address affordability problems, like housing or child care. Instead, additional spending on medical care will absorb all of the new revenue.
Health care is the biggest part of the provincial budget and this year’s $1.3 billion increase in medical spending may be the largest yet. This big slice of the budget pie given to medical care helps explain why B.C.'s investments in child care and housing affordability have stalled. This is despite research showing that the best way to promote health is to ensure that social investments on things like child care, housing, poverty reduction and education grow faster than medical care.
Happily, the budget does set aside some new money for child care, including for additional spaces. This means the B.C. government did live up to its word in making incremental progress toward a high-quality, affordable child care system in its first three years in office. Child care is better now than it was before the election.
But looking ahead to the next few years, the 2020 budget also puts the brakes on child care funding at less than half of the $1.5 billion annual spending required to grow the system so it is available for all families — not just the lucky few who can access the $10-a-day pilot programs.
Likewise, the 2020 budget takes its foot off the gas when it comes to building new affordable housing. In comparison with promises made in previous budgets, the government reduced the number of additional affordable units it commits to build over its first four years in office by 15%. The slower pace with which the B.C. government is addressing housing affordability occurs despite predictions in its 2020 budget (p. 74) that the value of homes will rise over the next few years, increasing unaffordability problems.
Don’t live in B.C.? Here’s why this still matters
Provincial politics are often a microcosm of the larger federal landscape. We can learn from this B.C. example that policy decisions at all levels of government commonly suffer from momentum: “This is how we’ve been doing things for years. Why would we change?”.
In B.C., and many other provinces, this means elected officials are accustomed to medical spending swallowing up so much of the budget that there is often little money left over to properly grow other programs.
It’s not that spending money on medical care is bad. We obviously need a strong health system!
But the science is clear. Our health doesn’t start with medical care. So when our provincial and federal governments alike sink piles of money into paying doctors and treating us once we’re sick…
...But resist investing adequately in the things that would help keep us from getting sick in the first place! (like housing and child care)...
...Then we shouldn’t think that budgets that overemphasize medical spending are good for our health and well-being. An ounce of prevention, anyone?
Now with the federal budget on deck, we have to let our MPs know that we’re looking for real change. We’re looking for government finance decisions to align with the best evidence about what promotes our health and well-being. There is some reason to be hopeful, because Ottawa is increasingly abuzz about the government proposing a “well-being” budget.
In support of this goal, Gen Squeeze is pushing for five key policies to be included in the budget covering areas like child care, housing, and climate change.
Using our online tool, you can submit a message to your MP, relevant cabinet ministers, and the government’s public budget consultation process, calling for a better budget for younger Canadians.
So far, our network has sent over 700 letters to MPs and Ministers!