Chamber responds to 2023 provincial budget
VERNON – The Greater Vernon Chamber believes B.C. Budget 2023 does little to strengthen entrepreneurship while immediate relief is lacking for British Columbians facing challenges related to affordability and health care.
On Feb. 28, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy presented the provincial budget in the Legislature.
“At a time when businesses large and small are experiencing increased cost pressures due to labour, fuel and supply chains, this budget provides no tangible assistance that will help entrepreneurs simply survive, never mind thrive. For the second year in a row, there is no tax relief related to regulatory programs such as employer-paid sick leave or the employer health tax,” said Robin Cardew, Greater Vernon Chamber president.
“We welcome the budget’s emphasis on training individuals to enter the workforce as the labour shortage continues to be the primary issue for our members. What is concerning, though, is that the full Future Ready plan to maximize B.C.’s workforce will not be released until the spring. Employers need a stable workforce now, not later.”
There is also new funding so small and medium sized businesses can implement technology and solutions to labour market challenges, but the Chamber is unsure of how that initiative will be rolled out or how onerous it could be for businesses with limited technological or financial resources.
In terms of housing affordability, the budget refers to a renter’s tax credit, funding to get more attainable homes built throughout the province, and financial incentives for homeowners to build secondary suites.
“These initiatives sound positive but until we see the exact details of B.C.’s refreshed housing strategy this spring, it’s difficult to know if these actions will alleviate the housing crisis, particularly for those middle-income wage earners who have been priced out of the market and are critical to economic success,” said Cardew.
“The government’s budget backgrounder also makes no reference to private sector developers or the easing of financial burdens that would encourage developers to build homes for all income levels.”
After meeting with Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, the Chamber made recommendations regarding affordable housing, including increasing the property transfer tax threshold to reduce barriers to home ownership and providing employers with resources to provide employee housing. They were not included in the budget.
Budget 2023 also provides funding for mental health and substance use services.
“There is no question that any additional investment is beneficial, but we want to see concrete timelines for treatment and recovery beds and that operational dollars are also linked to capital expenses. We also question why as public facilities are developed, those in need of immediate care cannot access private treatment and recovery for free,” said Cardew.
“We are pleased to see $169 million for additional complex care housing units as that is something our Chamber has advocated for. We are hopeful that Vernon will be identified as a priority location for housing that supports people living with complex mental health and substance-use challenges who are at risk of homelessness.”
Positive components of the budget include enhancing BC Parks and recreation sites and making communities more resistant to natural disasters.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Dan Proulx, General Manager
Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce
P: 250-545-0771 E: firstname.lastname@example.org