February 20, 2018: Today, the BC NDP Government released its first full budget on the theme of making life more affordable for British Columbians.
The focus was the widely-trailed investments in childcare, which took BC on the first steps to a path to universal childcare. Housing was another area where significant action was anticipated, and the budget went even further than expected with a host of measures which will have a sizeable impact on the housing market.
The good news for the tech sector included:
- The extension of the interactive digital media tax credit through August 31, 2023.
- Confirmed funding through 2020/21 for the additional post-secondary places in tech-related fields announced earlier this year—part of the BC Government’s promise to invest an incremental $100M in tech relevant post-secondary places.
- Measures to invest in K to 12 and post-secondary education, notably on the capital infrastructure side as well as confirmation of the funding of previously announced STEM education measures and investment in 5,000 new student housing spaces.
- There was limited content on innovation other than a reference to the recent appointment of Dr. Alan Winter as BC’s very first Innovation Commissioner—in the coming months, we hope to see the development of a comprehensive innovation policy.
- The Budget was silent on the mechanism to deliver the investment the BC Government will make in the BC-born Digital Technology Supercluster, confirmed last week as one of five winning bids that will share $950M in federal funding—we look forward to more details shortly.
Less positive news for the tech sector includes:
- A new payroll tax from January 1, 2019, which will hit employers with payrolls of $500,000 or more at progressive rates which top out at 1.95% for employers with payrolls of $1,500,000 or more. This is a new cost that will impact many of our tech company members and plenty of other small and medium-sized businesses across BC. We welcome comment and feedback from our members on how this will impact your businesses as there will be an opportunity for discussions with the Government before the implementation date.
On balance, today’s budget delivered in line with expectations for the first full year budget from the NDP.
Looking to the future, BC Tech will advocate that much more is needed: a budget for BC’s future needs serious investment in innovation and technology.
Some might ask why—since BC’s technology sector continues to thrive and grow at the fastest rate in Canada. The reason is simple: we are nowhere near realizing our potential. The competition for BC’s thriving tech ecosystem is global and it is fierce. We must not fall behind and with bold strategies, active investment, and strong partnerships with all levels of government, BC and Canada can surge ahead, compete, and win on a global stage.
It is through investment in innovation that some of the most pressing economic and social challenges we face as British Columbians, Canadians, and global citizens can be solved. From health tech platforms that reduce waiting times and increase access to practitioners for rural communities to the development of more sustainable and safe working environments for those in the resource sector. Innovation and technology can improve the way every British Columbian lives and works.
-Jill Tipping, President & CEO of BC Tech