The Kelowna Chamber held its annual ‘morning after’ Budget Recap Friday morning, reviewing Thursday’s Budget 2024, calling the election year budget a fiscal plan that has a few small nuggets for business but is awash in red ink going forward.

Aside from increasing deficits over the course of the three-year plan, the debt-to-GDP ratio will also balloon to 27.5% from 17.6%. This is the metric that the credit agencies use when setting the Province’s credit rating which impacts the cost of borrowing.

Unknown yet is the effect this will have on B.C.’s once solid triple A credit rating, something the previous NDP governments under John Horgan managed to keep under control. Achieving a balanced budget may be an aspirational goal of the government, yet this fiscal plan appears to go in the opposite direction.

“On the plus side, doubling the Employer Health Tax threshold from half a million to one million dollars 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.”

There are some other wins for business: there is a tax incentive aimed at encouraging more purpose-built rental construction. The government also introduced a modest one-time BC Electricity Affordability Credit that reduces electricity costs for residential, commercial, and industrial users, something that will be welcomed, particularly in the mining sector. Dedicated funds in the budget for the development of a Critical Minerals Strategy should also help with our needed economic growth.

Investment in BC Builds should wrestle down the ever-increasing cost of housing. The Kelowna Chamber will continue to push for the region’s fair share of public dollars for affordable housing while also reminding government of the need to reduce the costs of housing and development that are directly attributable to all three levels of government.

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 making B.C. a highly competitive jurisdiction that attracts greater investment and job creation.