This year was Vantage Point’s first time attending the BC Budget Lock-up on February 18, 2020. Budget Lock-up is the day when the provincial government announces the budget and highlights key spending decisions to stakeholders and media. Omar Dominguez, Director of Government Relations & Sector Development, attended the proceedings.
In June 2019 Vantage Point made a submission to the BC Budget consultation process. You can read the submission here.
The BC Budget is out and the consensus across many stakeholders is this is a cautious budget which stays the course in the current government agenda, which is framed in terms of affordability, access to community services, and a sustainable economy. However, we note there is a disconnect between our governments’ investment choices and the expectations it places in the not-for-profit sector to deliver on these priorities. Here are some highlights from the day.
Community Gaming Grants
The Community Gaming Grant program is a vital source of funding for a diverse range of community service groups. The budget notes that $249 million will be going to not-for-profits and local governments. Based on our questions to ministerial staff at the lock-up, this indicates no significant change in the funding pool for not-for-profits (currently stated at $135 million).
Additionally, 7% of the government’s gaming income will be going towards Indigenous communities throughout the province (which was announced in 2019). In the budget they refer to the funding expectations as $3 billion over the next 25 years. This is estimated to be $96 million in 2021/22 and $98 million in 2022/23.
Multiples voices have been actively advocating for the healthy administration of these programs, like our peers from the British Columbia Association for Charitable Gaming (BCACG). We will engage with our partners and follow up with the Ministry of Housing (which is responsible for Community Gaming revenues) to confirm the allocations it has made specifically to community-based not-for-profits. We will also continue to provide additional feedback on ways that the sector can leverage the community gaming program to maximize community wellbeing. We will provide an update in our member newsletter when we have more information.
Budget categories that will impact not-for-profits
The following funding allocations will impact not-for-profits on some level directly or indirectly. The budget does not clearly articulate how funds will be divided in most cases. We would expect these areas might come in the form of social procurement contracts and grants.
- Continued investments to meet the target of building 114,000 new homes over 10 years, plus $50 million to fight homelessness through approximately 505 shelters and two 60-bed navigation centres meant to provide wrap-around services for clients.
- An additional $56 million in capital funding in 2020/21 for the development of 200 new units of supportive modular housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Modular housing has been, in fact, a successful and much-needed solution to begin addressing our housing crisis.
- A human resources strategy for the social sector, which is welcome news by organizations which are facing mounting challenges to hire diverse and qualified staff, and to retain them in adequately remunerated positions. Unfortunately, no details have been disclosed.
- The province has allocated $24 million over three years in a new needs-based BC Access Grant to help with the cost of programs leading to a degree, diploma, or certificate. This is in addition to approximately $37 million of related programs. A key aspect of this new funding is that it also provides greater flexibility in the administration of these funds which can now be applied towards diplomas and trade certifications relevant to the not-for-profit sector such as early childhood education and health care assistants.
- Up to $9.5 million in new funding in 2020 will go towards Community Living BC (this is in addition to $8.8 million increase in 2019).
- British Columbians with over 220,000 in annual income will now be taxed at 20.5% which will generate funds which can be invested in public services. This is probably one of the most interesting narratives coming out of the budget because it pins taxation as an explicit mechanism to pursue a more equal distribution of income.
For more details, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provides thoughtful economic analysis on how far the budget goes to support homelessness, housing, climate change, poverty, and more.
Missed opportunities in the budget
Overall, the not-for-profit sector is mentioned directly in a limited way throughout the budget. This suggest a limited understanding of the essential role the sector has to ensure this government can deliver on its ambitious agenda to put people first.
Our sector is vast in size, scope, and impact for our province. In 2016, community and business not-for-profits (e.g. chambers of commerce and business associations) generated $6.4 billion of the total gross domestic product for BC. These measures do not fully capture the actual value not-for-profits as an essential element to support social and economic prosperity. Our services also help strengthen public health and prevent further public spending.
Together with our collaborators, partners, and members, Vantage Point will continue to lift the voice of community organizations and advocate for a healthy policy environment to strengthen the sector. The better the government recognizes the link between the not-for-profit sector and their provincial priorities, the more we can work together to achieve these goals.
Budget Lock-up learnings
The provincial budget is a fundamental policy that shapes and delivers on our government’s commitments to the public. It also reveals underlying assumptions, interests, and priorities that inform public investments, services, and the overall direction of the economy. In this context, it was an honour to have the opportunity to contribute to the public debate and to represent the perspective of organizations which are tackling some the of most pressing challenges facing our communities.
In the past, the not-for-profit sector has not always coordinated or collaborated to participate in the budget lock-up. But this is changing. In the last couple months leading up to the lock-up, a group of Vancouver-based not-for-profits came together to identify shared priorities. We agreed there is an urgent need to address poverty in BC and to call upon the provincial government to take action. We also advised and mentored each other to ensure we knew what to expect and how to participate more effectively during the day. Most importantly, we held a caucus during the lock-up to identify points of mutual interest and ways to amplify each other’s messages.
But while this important civic process was taking place inside Victoria’s Convention Centre and at the Provincial Legislature, we were also very much aware of the public debate and the blockades taking place across the country in support of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. In fact, many organizations decided not to attend the budget release. And while the recent Province’s decision to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People had been hailed as an historic step towards reconciliation, the official events of the day did not reflect the political tension we are currently facing. We still have a long road towards reconciliation. Similarly, the lack of diversity represented within the people participating at the budget lock-up suggests that we also have more work to do to strengthen the capacity of leaders of equity-seeking groups so they are the ones helping shape the policies which have a profound influence on their communities.
You can now read the BC Budget 2020. We recommend scanning the budget and to look out for priorities which impact your organizational mission. Please let us know if you identify any emerging issues or concerns associated with the budget and your ability to further your organization’s mandate.
Going forward, we want to see the government make a connection between the services the province needs and how not-for-profits are an essential part of the conversation.
Vantage Point’s Membership is a great way to engage in public policy advocacy and support a stronger not-for-profit sector. Not yet a Vantage Point member? Learn more and sign-up here!
We are a team of passionate and dedicated not-for-profit professionals dedicated to providing not-for-profits with high quality leadership training. We are here to set you up for success. Learn more about our team at www.thevantagepoint.ca/about/our-people/
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