B.C. Finance Minister Carole James.

How the provincial budget will play out in northwestern B.C.

Price of gasoline to rise and expect MSP premiums to disappear

With the NDP government’s first official full budget amounting to $54 billion, it’s going to take awhile for specific details affecting this region to become fully available.

But here are some highlights.

The carbon tax

First brought in by the BC Liberal government in 2008 the carbon tax now amounts to $30 a tonne of carbon dioxide emission equivalents and that translates to an extra 6.67 cents a litre on gasoline.

And it will increase in stages until it hits $50 a tonne by 2022, so be prepared to pay a few more cents a litre each year.

The increase also means people and companies will be paying more for natural gas as that fuel is subject to the carbon tax as well.

But the government says the tax will remain revenue neutral through reductions in the income tax rate, for instance, and of importance to northern residents, a homeowner grant benefit of $200.

Affordable housing

The NDP promised 114,000 affordable housing units during the 2017 provincial election, a figure it has now refined to 33,700 units over the next three years at a cost of $1.6 billion.

An affordable housing project in Terrace is already underway on Haugland on the Southside under the Ksan House Society umbrella while the Tamitik Status of Women organization in Kitimat has developed a proposal for the provincial government to gather all of its services, including housing units for women, under one roof in an all-encompassing facility on land donated by the District of Kitimat.

A housing project of modular units for the homeless population in Terrace is also in the works on land provided by the City of Terrace.

READ MORE: NDP pushes for puspose-built rentals in historic $1.6B investment

Student housing

Now decades old, the residences at Northwest Community College’s Terrace campus are out of date (they lack kitchens, for example) and are not in tune with current requirements. New housing has been on the college’s wish list for some years and this budget might offer some assistance.

Post-secondary institutions will now be able to borrow money from a $450 million provincial government pool to build housing.

Highways

Promised last year and to be built this year is a traffic roundabout to replace the Hwy16/Hwy37 four-way stop. The provincial transportation ministry also hinted last year for some resurfacing and other work on Hwy37 between Terrace and Kitimat.

Need a doctor?

The province is promising money for people to help them find a doctor. But how that will work in smaller communities where the number of physicians is limited remains to be determined.

Wage increases

This budget contains several billion dollars that remains unallocated. But with many public sector collective agreements coming due this year, bargaining will soon start.

Provincial civil servants had a rocky relationship with the previous BC Liberal government but the two sides did manage to find common ground.

There was one exception – in the summer and fall of 2012 the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union conducted rotating strikes.

A tentative agreement was reached in September 2012.

And in the first BC Liberal government of 2001-2005, BCGEU members took part in day-long protests against cuts to public services and in support of teachers.

Conservation officers

While in opposition, the NDP was frequently critical of the BC Liberal approach to environmental protection, saying there were not enough people on the ground to enforce rules and regulations. This budget calls for the hiring of 20 conservation officers but it’s not yet known if any will be assigned to this region.

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