Opinion: Budget 2021 expands services British Columbians rely on with $4B in new investments over next 3 years to strengthen health, mental-health supports.
Author: Selina Robinson
Op-Ed: Published in the Vancouver Sun
Publishing date: Apr 20, 2021
On April 20 our government released Budget 2021, a plan focused on protecting people’s health and livelihoods though the COVID-19 pandemic, while making investments that will support a strong recovery.
Through the adversity of the last year, we have witnessed the resilience of British Columbians time-and-again as communities rose to the challenge of COVID-19. I’m humbled and inspired by the incredible sacrifice and resilience shown by people in all corners of our province.
It’s that spirit of resilience that we’ve drawn on in developing this budget. The budget focuses on the things that matter most to people — better health care, supports for people and businesses, and investments that lay the path for a strong economic recovery.
Budget 2021 continues to protect the health and safety of British Columbians and expands the services people rely on with $4 billion in new investments over the next three years to strengthen health- and mental-health-care supports. This includes the largest investment in mental-health and substance-use supports — including a focus on bridging the gaps in mental-health care for young people.
The budget also builds on supports we have put in place over the last year to help bridge gaps for the people, families and businesses struggling most, while continuing our commitment to affordability. That includes delivering accessible and affordable child care, increasing support for people receiving income and disability assistance, and investing in new initiatives like free transit for children under age 13.
It also includes tackling the housing affordability crisis that the previous government allowed to develop. Building on our 10-year, $7 billion housing plan, we are investing a further $2 billion to partner with the private and non-profit sectors through the HousingHub at B.C. Housing to build 9,000 new homes for middle-income families, ensuring families can find a home they can afford to rent or buy and supporting businesses that need to attract workers to grow. We will continue to invest in making life more affordable for people — because we know that a strong, resilient future is one that includes everyone.
We know the path forward will not be the same for all people or sectors of the economy. When the pandemic began, we moved quickly with broad supports to provide financial relief. As the varying impacts on different sectors have become clearer, we have been able to make our supports more targeted.
That includes our business supports. In addition to continued supports to ensure that businesses across the province are able to make the investments needed to seize the opportunities that recovery will offer, we are providing additional supports for the hardest-hit sectors. This includes tourism operators, who continue to face the impacts of the closure of borders and an end to the travel these businesses rely on. This budget devotes $120 million to supporting the tourism sector, as we continue to work with business and tourism stakeholders, as well as with health officials to ensure B.C.’s tourism sector is poised to return and welcome back the world as soon as it’s safe to do so.
We know there are both challenges and opportunities waiting for us on the other side of the pandemic. Budget 2021 builds on the progress government has made creating a cleaner, stronger economy for everyone through Clean B.C. by investing an additional $506 million to reduce emissions, while creating new opportunities and promoting affordability. These investments in the low-carbon economy and emission reductions are key to positioning B.C. to seize the opportunities that recovery will offer.
By investing in the things that matter: health care, mental health, affordable housing, child care, job-creating infrastructure and, above all, people, we will lay the path for a strong economic recovery in the years ahead.
Despite the challenges of the last year, our strengths remain — B.C. enjoys abundant natural resources, is a gateway to Asia, and has highly skilled and innovative people and businesses. By focusing on the things that matter most to people, we are taking active steps toward the better days we know are ahead.
Selina Robinson is B.C.’s minister of finance.