Highlights from Crestview Strategy’s weekly newsletters:
Last week, the UCP government tabled its 2023-2024 budget in advance of May’s provincial election. The budget boasted massive spending increases, with highlights including nearly $1 billion increase in health care spending, $4.2 billion towards health care infrastructure, $23 billion over three years towards capital projects, and record-level spending on mental health and addictions initiatives. The budget also introduced a new fiscal framework to curb drastic increases in year-over-year spending. These major investments still leave the government with a $2.4 billion surplus and the new budget did not introduce any new taxes.
The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has officially reduced Justin Bourque’s parole eligibility from 75 years to 25 years, following the Supreme Court’s decision last year that ‘parole-stacking’ was unconstitutional. Bourque fatally shot constables David Ross, Fabrice Gevaudan and Douglas Larche in Moncton in 2014, and wounded two others. In a statement, New Brunswick’s Attorney General called the decision ‘disappointing and regrettable,’ reiterated that eligibility doesn’t guarantee release and called for his successors to ‘oppose Mr. Bourque from ever being released.’
On Tuesday, February 28th, the British Columbia government tabled its 2023 budget. The first of Premier David Eby’s tenure, the budget posted several big-ticket spending items despite slowing economic times on the horizon. Alongside major investments in healthcare, public safety, mental health and addictions support, and climate resilience initiatives, some notable highlights include:
Free Prescription Birth Control
In what many are calling a long-overdue step in women’s health, the new budget ensures that by April 1, several forms of prescription contraceptives will be free of charge under the province’s PharmaCare system.
The government has also (partially) delivered on an election promise made in 2017 to provide a $400 rebate to renters across the province. The 2023 budget provides for the $400 rebate in the form of a tax credit, and it will only be available in full to renters whose adjusted annual income is $60,000 or less.
Carbon Pricing Regime
The budget also included a new carbon tax model for industry, alongside a sizeable increase in spending to build climate-resilient provincial infrastructure. The province will see its carbon tax increase to $65 per tonne of emissions, which will bring in an extra $584 million of revenue to the government, most of which will be redistributed in the form of rebates. The tax will continue to rise by $15 per tonne per year until it hits $170 per tonne in 2030, which is in line with the federal government’s carbon pricing schedule.
The budget has also earmarked more than $1 billion towards mental health and addictions supports – $867 million towards operating funding, and $169 million towards capital investments.
The Government of Ontario announced over $61 million in combined funding to bring high-speed internet access to more than 16,000 homes in 47 rural Ontario communities and three First Nations communities in Northern Ontario. The funding will be directed toward six projects by Bell Canada, the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre and Keewaytinook Okimakanak.
B.C. and Ottawa reach $27B health funding agreement
The British Columbia government has agreed in principle to a $27.47-billion deal for health-care funding from the federal government. The agreement is another step toward completing a $196-billion, 10-year health-care funding proposal that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made with Canada’s premiers last month. The federal government is injecting tens of billions of dollars into Canada’s struggling health care systems, but before they can acquire all the money, provinces and territories have to agree to some conditions about how they’ll use it. Almost all provinces have signed their bilateral deals, with Quebec and the territories to follow.
Last week, a few high-profile people confirmed that they are considering running for mayor of Toronto.
Former City Councillor Ana Bailão has confirmed that she is ‘strongly’ considering putting her name on the ballot. As well, Brad Bradford, Councillor for Beaches-East York and son of Kitchener Liberal MP Valerie Bradford, announced he formed a 16-person advisory committee of top political strategists and commentators, advising him on a possible run for mayor of Toronto to succeed John Tory. Former York City Councillor Rob Davis has confirmed that he will be running for mayor of Toronto. If elected, Davis has shared that his first act as mayor would be to rescind Council’s decision to rename Dundas Street. Mitzie Hunter, MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, while announcing she would not run for Ontario Liberal leader, did share that she is considering running for mayor. Finally, former City Councillor Mike Layton announced that he would not run for mayor despite having been urged by many. He shared that he’d like to continue being a present father to his kids and would like to dedicate his efforts to tackling climate change.