When our government released the provincial budget for 2017 last week, I was very pleased to see just how much recognition it gave to rural B.C.
It’s our fifth consecutive balanced budget, and it’s shaped by a belief that I think most of us in rural B.C. share: that people’s money belongs in their own pockets, not with government.
Thanks to the hard work of British Columbians and our government’s careful financial management, we’re able to use the surplus in this budget to put money back in your pockets, while still making important investments; including many for rural B.C.
In that spirit, the budget includes $40 million to connect our communities by extending high-speed internet access in rural B.C., $9 million to improve our rural education, and $45 million to eliminate school busing fees.
It provides for the continuation of the Rural Dividend Fund so we can keep empowering our small rural communities with grants like those the Villages of Cache Creek, Ashcroft, and Clinton and the Ashcroft Indian Band have received.
It introduces a $3,000 tax credit for search and rescue volunteers and volunteer firefighters like those who serve Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, and area.
It cuts the small business tax rate from 2.5 per cent to 2 per cent, and starts phasing out the PST on electricity costs.
These measures support small business and improve business competitiveness and economic development.
It takes the first step toward eliminating MSP premiums, cutting them by 50 per cent, benefiting seniors and families and leaving more money in people’s pockets. It also provides $10 million for invasive plant management, so we can better protect our ranchland.
Our government also recently appointed a Minister of State for Rural Economic Development, and announced a Rural Development Strategy to address job creation in our communities.
These initiatives show that our government understands the importance of rural B.C. to our economy and our province.
With measures like these to benefit the people of rural B.C., Balanced Budget 2017 reinforces a sense of this understanding and commitment.