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Some benefits for Abbotsford in B.C. budget

B.C.’s second straight surplus provincial budget was presented this week in Victoria by Abbotsford MLA and Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

The austere budget had few spending and tax changes, as the province plans for economic growth driven by natural gas exports. Key budget points include a 32 cent increase on the provincial tobacco tax, and another four per cent increase in Medical Services Plan premiums for next year, making the total increase more than 30 per cent over the past five years.

Provincial funding for K-12 education continues at 2013 levels, as the government pursues an appeal of a court decision that could add hundreds of millions to school district costs.

Though a tiny piece of B.C.’s multi-billion dollar budget, a significant local contribution will be $5 million over five years to the aerospace sector.

The government will make good on its election promise to work with the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada Pacific Division to attract global aerospace and defence contractors to B.C.

De Jong said the aerospace industry is already building a strong base in Abbotsford, drawing in world-leading aerospace companies.

“The $5 million partnership… will position us to take advantage of the fact that in the years ahead, the single largest expansion in aerospace needs will be in the Asia-Pacific region and we are incredibly well-positioned to play a leading role in that. That’s very good news for Abbotsford.”

He said in a tight budget, the funding is a signal of the importance and potential seen in the aerospace sector.

De Jong said Abbotsford will benefit from other aspects of the budget, including the provinces’ continued carbon tax relief for greenhouses and nurseries – large employers in Abbotsford.

The BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation, headquartered in Abbotsford, received continued funding for the program that helps kids get free B.C. fruit and vegetable and milk products.

He added that Abbotsford is a community with many young families who are trying to enter the housing market. The budget’s expansion of the property transfer tax exemption for first time home buyers “is huge for Abbotsford,” saying it will save a purchaser $7,500 dollars.

When asked about potential for housing support in Abbotsford, de Jong said the city has received significant provincial assistance on a broad range of housing and supportive housing projects, including Christine Lamb Residence and Kinghaven’s George Schmidt Centre.

He said that following what would have been a difficult decision by council to deny the Abbotsford Community Services’ provincially-funded supportive housing project, it is unclear whether there will still be funding available in Abbotsford for another project. “I also know that in light of that, the long list of communities that are in line seeking funding for similar projects have already stepped up and… begun to make applications for that money.”

De Jong said if another project is developed, he, along with MLAs Simon Gibson and Darryl Plecas, “will do what we can, as we always do, to advocate on behalf of our community.”

- with files from Tom Fletcher

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