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Kelowna chamber concerned BC is 'awash in red ink'

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce doesn't particularly like the province's short-term-gains-and-long-term-pains budget for 2024.

The chamber held a 'morning after' BC Budget Recap with members this morning that concluded that while there are a few, small nuggets for business, the fiscal plan is largely "awash in red ink."

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy tabled the $89-billion operating budget for BC in 2024-25 yesterday in Victoria.

That includes $6 billion in new spending in a year that will continue to have a sluggish economy.

But, Conroy maintained that while times may be tough, it is not the time for government to curb spending because the public has to be served with more housing and life affordability in mind.

After posting a surplus last year, the new budget forecasts a record-high deficit of $7.9 billion and a total provincial debt growing by $20 billion to $123 billion.

</who>Finance Minister Katrine Conroy tabled BC's $89-billion operating budget for 2024 yesterday in Victoria.

The chamber is concerned the increasing deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio will hurt BC's once-solid triple-A credit rating.

The short-term gains in the budget for BC residents are the expansion of the BC Family Benefit by $445 per family per year, a one-time electricity affordability credit that will save BC Hydro customers $100 a year, exemption from the property transfer tax for first-time homebuyers, a bigger carbon-tax rebate and the first round of in-vitro fertilization covered by BC Medical starting April 2025.

</who>Dan Rogers is the CEO of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

"On the plus side, doubling the Employer Health Tax threshold from half a million to $1 million will enable some businesses to lower their costs," said Kelowna chamber CEO Dan Rogers.

"It's an ask we've made since the tax was introduced."

The chamber is also happy with some other wins for business -- the tax incentive to encourage more purpose-built rental apartments, the electricity credit for commercial and industrial users and the Critical Minerals Strategy that could spur economic growth through mining.

The chamber will also push for Kelowna's fair share of BC Builds funding to create more affordable housing in the city.

The chamber concludes: This budget will move the needle in addressing the need for more affordable housing and there is also some help for those facing economic hardship. But, overall, the budget isn't likely to be a game changer when it comes to making BC a highly competitive jurisdiction that attracts greater investment and job creation.

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