Recommendations for the 2024 BC Budget

Budget 2024 is an opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of all generations, from the early years onwards. Generation Squeeze's recommendations on priority actions to achieve this goal are summarized below. Some require bold leadership — others point to easy steps to improve accountability. All are pressing as we struggle to address the medical, affordability and climate crises, and wrestle with how to cover the cost of healthy retirements for the growing population of seniors with contributions from a shrinking number of working-age residents.

Generation Squeeze will analyze Budget spending and impacts by age and mobilize findings across our 45,000+ network. We welcome opportunities to discuss our recommendations in more detail, and to collaborate with elected representatives from all parties to make BC work for all generations.

1. Put generational fairness at the centre of policy and budget decisions by creating a Generational Fairness Task Force

Generational unfairness is the disease underlying some of BC’s biggest problems: unaffordable housing, the high cost of raising a family, a deteriorating climate, age imbalances in government spending and debt, and rising medical care costs that are not making British Columbians healthier. A Generational Fairness Task Force will help to ensure that policies and budgets align with the principles of intergenerational fairness and solidarity.

Jurisdictions around the world have recognized the need to consider generational fairness in government decisions (Wales, Scotland, United Kingdom, Australia, Hungary, United Arab Emirates). It’s time for federal and provincial governments in Canada to catch up.

A clear commitment to address generational fairness will help to embed the kind of long-term thinking needed to tackle problems like climate change, unaffordable housing and growing debt — all of which disproportionately affect younger and future generations. It is much more likely that the wellbeing of younger British Columbians will be addressed as urgently as other age groups if there are formal mechanisms in place to help BC budget fairly for all generations. 

2. Organize housing policy around the principle that restoring affordability for all requires home prices to stall, so that earnings can catch up

We can no longer tolerate the gap between homes prices and local earnings growing any larger. Provincial housing policy must be recalibrated to advance the goal of ensuring that home prices stall, so that earnings can catch up — because a good home should be in reach of what hard work can earn.

Although rising prices are bad for younger generations, they have simultaneously created wealth windfalls for many home owners, especially older British Columbians who have been in the market for longer. Compared with 1977, the combined value of principal residences in Canada jumped by over $3-trillion. Two-thirds of this additional housing wealth is owned by those over age 55.

Aligning housing policy with the goal of stalling prices can be advanced by putting a modest price on this growing housing inequity via a small annual surtax on the most expensive homes — a proposal supported by 73% of British Columbians according to recent polling. This surtax would apply to a minority of BC home owners — most won’t pay a penny more. But it will help ratchet down the runaway home prices driving up wealth inequity and crushing affordability for younger generations, while raising funds to invest in deeply affordable, energy-efficient rental and co-op homes. 

3. Strengthen accountability for investing in wellbeing from the early years onwards by adopting two key metrics:

Monitor the ratio between spending on key social investments relative to spending on medical care

Science shows that health does not begin with medical care. It begins where we are born, grow, live, work and age. As long wait lists and uneven access to primary care accelerate pressures to spend more on illness treatment, it is increasingly important to make clear that investments in things like housing, child care, climate change, reconciliation, and poverty reduction are necessary to create health. 

BC needs tools to monitor public spending on wellbeing over time to ensure political leaders can make informed and efficient spending decisions. A key data point for genuine health innovation is tracking the ratio of social spending, relative to medical care spending. Reporting on this ratio in Budget 2024 — and all Budgets thereafter — will help BC prioritize investing in wellbeing and illness prevention with as much urgency as investing in treating illness after the fact.

Analyze the distribution of government spending by age

Budget 2024 — and all budgets thereafter — should include an accurate and meaningful assessment of the distribution of spending by age. At present, decision makers are unable to even consider whether the province is finding the right balance in investing in wellbeing at all ages, because these data are not tracked or reported. BC can fix this by implementing our rigorous age accounting methodology.  

Our research consistently shows that governments in BC and across Canada are growing spending many times faster on retirees than on those under age 45.  Greater spending later in the life course makes sense, as that’s when health and support needs increase. But budgets also must respond to the money, time and environmental squeezes that are undermining the wellbeing of younger people. 

Understanding how spending breaks down by age is especially important now. As our population ages, governments need more revenue to cover the growing costs of the health and income supports retirees expect. BC will need to raise the necessary funds in ways that don’t financially squeeze their kids and grandkids even more than they are now.

4. Continue to invest in the roll out of $10 a day child care at a level aligned with the urgency of this cost savings for BC families

Budget 2024 should continue to catalyze implementation of the emerging $10 a day child care system, and take steps to ensure that $10 a day is the maximum fee for everyone (not just the average), with no fee for low-income households. We should apply the same logic to child care as public education and medical care — more affluent individuals are asked to pay more via taxes — not via higher fees at the door. 

Consistent with a recent report from BC, the province should prioritize paying early child care educators pay equity salaries for the professional work they deliver. Adequate remuneration is critical to attracting and retaining the workers needed to make $10 a day child care available to all BC families at a time with affordability pressures are high.

5. Continue BC’s leadership on pollution pricing, and become a leader on nature-based climate action

Budget 2024 should reinforce BC’s continued leadership on pricing pollution, which has been identified as one of the five most critical policies needed to reach emissions reduction goals.   

Budget 2024 should also incentivize carbon sequestration using nature-based solutions by (i) preventing further damage to old-growth forests, wetlands and peatlands, given evidence of the enormous ecosystem and sequestration benefits they offer which cannot be meaningfully replaced once lost; and (ii) realizing the carbon-drawdown potential of regenerative agricultural practices that increase soil carbon, and decrease reliance on water and fossil-fuel based inputs.

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