Missed the Gen Squeeze analysis of the BC budget last week? No problem, here’s a summary.
BC Budget Pits Grandparents Against their Kids and Grandchildren
In its Throne Speech, the government committed to make life more affordable for young people by investing in child care. Prioritizing new public spending for younger generations make sense now because young people’s wages are down 18 per cent compared to the mid-1970s, even though they are twice as likely to have post-secondary. With lower incomes, they must pay home prices that are 150 per cent higher than a generation ago.
Regrettably, today’s budget delivered almost no increase for young people. The child care announcement made today allocates an extra two dollars and 40 cents per young person next year.
Interestingly, the same budget added $1.5 billion to medical care spending over the next 3 years – spending which primarily benefits the generation of retirees, adding $1000 a year per British Columbian over 65.
The problem is - annual government spending per retiree is already around $45,000 in BC, compared to just $12,000 per British Columbian under age 45. In response, the Generation Squeeze Campaign, supported by a large network of partners from business, labour, social services, and the academy asks government to narrow the generational spending gap slightly by increasing expenditures on younger generations from $12,000 to $13,000 – a thousand dollars per young person.
Today’s budget did the reverse, leaving younger citizens further behind.
By widening the generational spending gap, the Budget fails to address how BC is now the least affordable jurisdiction for young people in the country. The province has become unaffordable, because “BC young people suffer the largest reduction in household incomes of any province since the mid-1970s, along with the greatest increase in housing prices,” observes Stephen Butz, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Vancouver, and an advisor to the Gen Squeeze campaign. Adjusting for inflation, the average price of housing in 1976 was $209,000 in BC. Today, it is over $561,000.
The BC Liberal and NDP parties have both said that the province cannot afford $10/day child care, which is key to narrowing the generational spending gap. “But building this program would only raise spending per young person to $12,500,” observes Anita Huberman, the CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade and another advisor to the Gen Squeeze campaign. “This is affordable while still leaving spending on retirees around its current level,” she adds.
Given today’s spending announcements, we need to ask why $1.5 billion is unaffordable for $10/day child care when that same amount was available to add to medical care? This question is fundamental now when BC already spends around $16 billion a year on medical care. It’s more relevant still when we read international comparisons that show Canada spends more money per person on medical care than most countries, only to achieve average or below-average health outcomes.
Regrettably, neither the BC Liberals nor the NDP are asking this question in the lead up to the upcoming provincial election. As a result, both risk pitting the health of retiring parents and grandparents against the well-being of their kids and grandchildren, when what we really need is a government budget that works for all generations.