Our Take on the Budget 2021 Consultation Report
Earlier this summer, we shared with you our second written submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services (the Committee) for the provincial budget 2021 consultation, which took place this year between June 1st to 26th. The consultation process started with the Minister of Finance’s consultation paper, which outlined the provincial government’s COVID-19 action plan and three guiding priorities: 1) health and safety, 2) immediate supports for individuals, and 3) business and economic recovery.
The Committee released the Report on the Budget 2021 Consultation on August 21st with 124 recommendations (full list found on page 106 to 119).
How to read the report
Before diving into the details, keep in mind that $1.5 billion of the $5 billion COVID-19 action plan has been earmarked for economic recovery but remains unallocated. While the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts are unquestioned and underscored throughout the report, the Minister informed the Committee that many of the government’s priorities remain the same (see page 7 “Minister of Finance Briefing”):
- K to 12 education
- Advanced education and skills training
- Infrastructure (ex. roads, hospitals, schools)
Therefore, it is no surprise that these themes are represented throughout the report. Further, it is worth taking a moment to celebrate that this year’s consultation process had the highest participation level in nearly 10 years! The Committee heard and received 281 presentations, 1362 submissions, and 3624 survey responses.
The recommendations span over 12 themes, each making up a section in the report. Each theme/section has its own sub-sections that include impact of COVID-19, survey highlights (if any), detailed discussions, and the Committee’s recommendations for each theme.
In Vantage Point’s submission, our three recommendations emphasized the opportunity for budget 2021 to be an investment in public wellbeing through funding and partnership with the not-for-profit sector.
Reconciliation, equity, diversity, and inclusion
The Committee made the explicit call to action for the upcoming budget to “address inequities and make significant progress on reconciliation, diversity and inclusion, and accessibility” in all areas. Further, the Committee recommends “ensuring ministries adopt a diversity and inclusion lens and recognize systemic barriers to address the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic, and providing programs and supports for equity-seeking groups who face systemic barriers” (see the executive summary on page 2).
Similar points about the importance of gender equity, truth, reconciliation, and decolonization were incorporated throughout Vantage Point’s submission. The not-for-profit and charitable sector is comprised of organizations working to advance similar goals every day and the Committee’s recommendations validate the importance of the work made possible by our sector.
The necessity of internet access, reflected in Vantage Point’s recommendations, is another clear theme in this report. The report recognizes inequities related to digital infrastructure and “recommends accelerating investments…including addressing challenges related to affordability” and references this is an area requiring collaboration with the federal government and telecommunication companies.
Multi-year stabilization funds
While the report does not make an explicit recommendation for a not-for-profit sector stabilization fund (Vantage Point recommended a $500 million stabilization fund for the sector), it does suggest a need for urgent recovery funding and multi-year stabilization supports to several sectors.
To note, “non-profit” or “not-for-profit” is mentioned 19 times in total throughout the report. It has its own sub-section under the “Health” theme, and an entire recommendation based on it:
- Recommendation 65: Provide urgent and stable funding to the charitable and non-profit sector so that they can continue to provide services to British Columbians, including exploring the provision of incentives to donate such as a donation-matching program, and increasing the charitable donation tax credit.
It is not only a pivotal moment that not-for-profits are mentioned, moreover, “non-profit” is recognized as a whole sector. This is welcomed language for those in the sector who have and continue to define the sector and raise its profile.
However, the report falls short to include not-for-profits in the Economic Development section. As mentioned in our submission for the Provincial Budget Consultation, BC’s not-for-profit sector contributes $6.4 billion to the provincial GDP. Jobs and service provisions, as well as losses in this sector need to be seriously considered in the context of a resilient provincial economy.
Other recommendations with implications on the sector
While the not-for-profit sector as a whole is only directly referenced in two themes – first in Health, and secondly, in Social Services, Community Social Services and Social Policy - there are several recommendations for other sectors that could impact BC’s not-for-profits whose work is related to those sectors. These include:
- Arts and culture: targeted, multi-year recovery funding through BC Arts Council. Donation incentives, tax breaks, infrastructure investments. Increased funding for Creative BC and Amplify BC. Work with other levels of government and community partners to increase investments.
- Digital media, music, film: explore new measures to address inequities and barriers for underrepresented groups in this industry.
- Long-term care: sustain investments, especially for staffing and care standards.
- Mental health and addiction services: invest in continuum of services, culturally safe supports and services, family supports, services for children and youth.
- Housing: accelerate construction of continuum of affordable and social housing, especially for women facing violence, gender-specific supportive housing, expanded housing options for people with disabilities, youth, and low-income seniors. Expand investments in Indigenous housing with Federal Government.
- Public safety and justice: increase investments in legal aid and community restorative justice programs. Provide operational funding to child and youth advocacy centres.
- Childcare: invest in affordable childcare, and funding through Ministries of Children and Family Development and Health to improve access to supports for children and youth with accessibility needs, and their families.
- Youth: improving supports for youth aging out of care and marginalized youth. The report names Boys and Girls Club, and Right to Play as organizations to provide care and wrap-around programs for marginalized youth.
- Advanced education: increase adult education resources, including broadening course offerings and skills training (especially important because of COVID-19 and other disruptive workplace forces that could displace workers).
- Social services: develop a comprehensive, outcome-focused social policy framework. Continue funding provincial poverty reduction strategy. Review the framework for income and disability assistance. Address recruitment, retention, and compensation challenges within community services sector.
- Fiscal and regulatory policy: apply a gender-based analysis plus lens in policy development and economic recovery, as well as “equity, reconciliation, and climate action lenses”. Ensure federal and provincial programs continue supporting individuals and businesses in recovery. Transition emergency funding to targeted investments that are based on individual and sectoral needs. Review opportunities to temporarily adjust the Employer Health Tax. Introduce a municipal finance reform so there are more tools to address financial pressures related to housing issues, the opioid crisis, and other priorities.
Budget 2021 will be presented on the third Tuesday in February (Feb 16, 2021). While the release of the report ensures the public can access the Committee’s recommendations, it is important to recall this report is written and has been submitted to members of BC’s legislative assembly. If you want to engage with your MLA about this report and budget 2021, make sure you are familiar with the Lobbyists Transparency Act.
Overall, the report recognizes many of the key points raised in our recommendations for the sector, namely that there is an immense financial impact due to COVID-19 and strong need for stabilization supports. The report also echoes the reality that the pandemic has revealed the need for resources to address gaps in supports and services for British Columbians. These are all encouraging signs that budget 2021 may reflect the needs and supports we have collectively identified for our sector.
If you want to get further involved in these discussions and the advocacy work that Vantage Point is doing, we encourage you to become a member. During the COVID-19 crisis we have made membership free. You can learn more and sign-up here.