THE first budget update from the new BC NDP government shows for the first time in 16 years that government can be a force for positive, progressive changes that will make life more affordable for working families and ensure all British Columbians have an opportunity to benefit from economic growth, CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Trevor Davies said on Monday.

“In just 8 weeks, the new government has put together a budget update that provides additional funding for vital public services, takes action to make life less expensive, eliminates an expensive tax cut for the richest British Columbians and commits the government to serious action on the fentanyl overdose crisis,” said Davies. “In addition, the new government is taking steps to address homelessness and the affordability of housing across the province.”

In addition to significant new investments in health care and education, the government is cutting Medical Services Plan premiums by 50 percent, and will eliminate this regressive tax altogether over the next four years. The budget update also increases income and disability assistance rates by $100 per month.

Davies said: “CUPE’s 27,000 members working in the K-12 sector will welcome the new funding for public education,” said Davies. “While much work remains to be done to address the damage done to our education system by 16 years of underfunding, cuts and confrontation from the former government, we’re now definitely on the right track.

“We’re also pleased to see increased funding for post-secondary education institutions, and the investment of $19 million to restore free Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning. Cutting this funding was an inexplicably short-sighted and mean-spirited decision by the BC Liberals, and the elimination of these fees means more people will now have better opportunities to participate in our economy and society.”

Finance Minister Carole James said the new government is also allocating resources for the upcoming poverty reduction plan. Under the BC Liberals, B.C. was the only province without a legislated plan to address poverty.

“A provincial economy is much like a ship—it’s impossible to turn on a dime,” said Davies. “That said, the steps announced in today’s budget update are great first steps in correcting our province’s course.”

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