24 Feb The Voice: 2017 BC Budget – A Prelude to the #BCTECH Summit
For the fifth consecutive year, the BC government delivered a balanced budget, a position that is unique in Canada. BC Budget 2017 reinforced the government’s commitment to fiscal stewardship while delivering on strategic investments and tax programs that will further the competitiveness of the province.
The updated economic forecast for the province shows 3.0% GDP growth for 2016, reaffirming British Columbia’s status as the strongest economy in Canada for the second year running. Overall revenue for 2016/17 is projected to be $50.9 billion, contributing to an overall forecast surplus of $1.46 billion for the fiscal year. Total government revenue for 2017/18 is forecasted at $50.8 billion, with expenses of $50.2 billion, a projected budget surplus of $295 million and contingencies of $400 million. The province’s AAA credit rating was reinforced by its progress in reducing its operating debt (now at $5.2 billion) and the continued improvement in the province’s debt to GDP ratio which now stands at a modest 16.1%. In comparative terms, BC’s debt to GDP ratio is less than half that of Ontario (40.3%) and Quebec (48.1%).
Inline with the recent Speech from the Throne, technology and innovation were highlighted as being critical to BC’s continued economic growth. The province is expected to release an update to its #BCTECH Strategy in mid-March and by far the most significant element of the budget was the plan to invest $87 million over the next three years in support of the strategy. The details will be released at the upcoming #BCTECH Summit on March 14-15, 2017 and we remain optimistic that the investments will address several of the recommendations outlined in our 4-Point Plan policy platform.
The budget also outlined several items of significance for the BC tech community including:
- Extension of Provincial SR&ED Program. The provincial SR&ED program was due to expire in September 2017 and this budget extends the program by an additional 5 years to August 31, 2022.
- Increase to Angel Tax Credit Program. BC Budget 2017 also provides for an increase in the small business venture capital program from the current level of $35 million per year to $38.5 million per year, an increase of $3.5MM per year starting in 2017.
- Expansion in Eligibility for Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit. Following the extension to the IDMTC in 2015, there were three adjustments made to expand eligibility for the program:
- Company eligibility. The requirements were changed to allow any corporation with BC labour expenditures exceeding $2 million to be eligible for the program.
- Removal of the restriction of the Angel Tax Credit Program. Companies that participate in the Small Business Venture Capital Program are now eligible for the IDMTC.
- Eligible Activities. The definition for eligible projects now includes Augmented and Virtual Reality entertainment products.
- Investments in High-Speed Internet Access. The budget provides for an additional $40 million to be invested in extending high-speed internet access to rural and remote communities. It also provides an additional $8 million for BCNet to upgrade the internet access speeds and connectivity to 20 post-secondary institutions.
- Investments in Education. The budget commits $6 million to teaching kids to code and includes investments in teacher training and computing equipment. By 2018/19, every student between grades 6 and 9 will have access to coding education.
- Post-Secondary Investments. The budget reiterated the province’s commitments to investing in infrastructure at BC’s post-secondary institutions, including:
- Emily Carr University of Art and Design campus re-development
- The University of British Columbia’s undergraduate life science teaching laboratories re-development
- Simon Fraser University’s new Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering Building at SFU Surrey
- Industrial Training and Technology Centre at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops
As is common in an election year, this budget is not expected to be passed in this Legislative Session, but it signals the government’s commitment to the tech industry. The Legislature is expected to sit into March, before rising in advance of the writ of the election being issued on April 11, for the May 9, 2017, general election. We will continue to monitor policy commitments in the run-up to the general election, including the platforms of the BC NDP and BC Green Party.
The full 2017 BC Budget is available online.
We welcome your input to evolve our policy framework and grow BC’s tech industry. To provide your feedback or participate in the BC Tech Association’s policy and advocacy efforts, please email Raseel Sehmi at firstname.lastname@example.org.