Premier’s office spending set to increase 30 per cent this year

By Shannon Waters April 26, 2021

B.C.’s government ministries are expected to spend $47 billion this fiscal year — a 5.6 per cent increase from the $44.5 billion spent in 2020-21.

A 30 per cent budget increase for the premier’s office is the third-largest budget boost of all 21 government ministries. Budget 2021 allocates about $3.4 million more to the premier’s office than the previous year with total spending planned to hit $14.7 million.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson suggested the budget increase is “absolutely critical” to ensuring Premier John Horgan “has access to British Columbians” — implying that he may, eventually, spend some of the money travelling around the province.

“It’s really important that the premier hear from British Columbians from all regions of the province — that he’s able to engage with all stakeholders and that he talks to regular British Columbians who are very focused on taking care of their families,” Robinson told reporters on budget day.

Budget 2021 includes increased spending of 15 per cent or more for other four ministries.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is slated for a 15 per cent increase, mainly for Clean BC programming. The ministry’s budget is expected to grow to $396 million by 2024 — a 52 per cent increase over the $261 million the ministry spent last year.

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is scheduled to grow by 19 per cent, to $4.5 billion in 2022 as the province increased income assistance rates for seniors and people with disabilities. It will hold steady after that.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ budget is set to double this year, hitting $308 million, after spending just $149 million in 2020-21. That’s because services and transfers to local governments are set to rise from about $107 million in 2020-21 to over $265 million this year.

In 2022-23, that ministry’s expenses are expected to drop to $247 million and remain there through 2024.

The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation gets a budget boost of nearly 85 per cent this year and is set to keep growing. Last year, the ministry’s expenses totalled $97 million; this fiscal, they’re expected to hit $179 million and reach $194 million in 2022-23 before sinking slightly to $182 million in 2024. Budget 2021 gives the ministry’s annual base funding a $60-million boost, earmarked to “support Indigenous participation in land and resource activities, including negotiations, and engagement on legislation, policy and programs.”

The Ministry of Health’s budget for 2021-22 is $1.7 billion more than last year. It’s the largest raw increase of any ministry but represents just 7.7 per cent more than the $22.2 billion allocated in Budget 2020.

Finance takes a hit while labour, mental health and addictions hold the line
The biggest ministry budget reduction is from the Ministry of Finance, which spent nearly $1.8 billion last year but is earmarked for $990 million in Budget 2021.

But it’s not an actual budget decrease. According to ministry officials, most of B.C. government’s pandemic support programs — including the pandemic pay top-up and other recovery benefits — flowed through the finance ministry last year.

Also taking an expense hit is the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General (nine per cent) while the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development will see its spending shrink by 4.4 per cent this year compared to last. The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation is also set for a 4.4 per cent budget reduction.

Two ministries are scheduled for stand-pat expense budgets all the way through 2024, per the budget document. That’s the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

Budget 2021 predicts ministry expenses will hit $49 billion by 2024.