This policy brief highlights what the BC Budget 2023 means for the province’s digital economy. The annual budget is published in the spring and outlines the government’s main spending priorities.
British Columbia’s Budget 2023, published on March 1, made headlines for its focus on affordability, housing, and health, and its proposed support for British Columbia’s green economy. The Government of British Columbia planned its budget around the likelihood of an economic slowdown, promoting fiscal prudence and setting aside allowances for lower-than-expected revenues over the next three years. As such, the budget focuses on a few strategic areas. The province still expects to see economic growth but foreseees smaller revenues from taxes and natural resources. Despite the cautionary tone, the province has earmarked additional spending for its CleanBC program, which includes subsidies to help residents and firms transition to zero-emission technologies. The CleanBC program will likely increase demand for skilled workers familiar with digital and clean technologies.
Policy and Programs to Support British Columbia’s Digital Economy
For the digital economy, the 2023 Budget features continued investment in skills and workforce development, the launch of a new critical minerals strategy, an extended interactive digital media tax credit, and expansion opportunities for British Columbia’s green economy, including clean transportation. A more detailed summary of the policy measures that will shape Canada’s digital economy is provided below.
Enabling Workforce and Skills Development
The provincial government will be releasing the full details of its Future Ready plan later in the spring, but for now, BC’s Budget 2023 proposes to allocate $480 million over three years to support initiatives to improve workforce participation, remove barriers to employment, and support small to medium-size businesses. The budget also earmarks support for Indigenous peoples under a new Guardian training program, for post-secondary education and skills training organizations to develop skills and training courses for in-demand jobs, and for the digitalization of small and medium-sized firms. Newcomers’ support and foreign credential recognition are also proposed for an investment of $58 million over three years to support labour needs in growing sectors such as healthcare and childcare. A recent study published by BC’s First Nation’s Technology Council (in collaboration with Reciprocal Consulting and ICTC) notes that Indigenous peoples are left out of the tech sector for many reasons, including challenges with broadband infrastructure and the lack of training for Indigenous peoples in the tech sector.
Supporting British Columbia’s Innovation Economy
To capitalize on upstream opportunities in the global information and communications technology supply chain, the government is earmarking $6 million over three years to develop a critical minerals strategy for British Columbia. The strategy will explore the province’s future role in the critical minerals supply chain, including geoscience and minerals extraction, processing, and manufacturing. Additional measures outlined by the province seek to modernize natural resource permitting and enhance co-management and decision making with Indigenous peoples. Critical minerals are the building blocks for green and digital economies and are used to make hardware, solar panels, EV batteries, and more. That said, precautions must be taken to ensure resource extraction is done in a sustainable and non-polluting manner.
Also announced is the government’s intention to extend the interactive digital media tax credit for five years until 2028.
While no new funding is committed to strengthening cybersecurity, the budget does propose ongoing funding to improve cybersecurity for various pieces of critical infrastructure in the province. As cybersecurity attacks become more common, it is important for governments to harden critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.
Growing British Columbia’s Green Economy
In recent years, BC has become ever too familiar with extreme weather events like floods and forest fires directly linked to climate change. As such, the province has proposed to invest $1 billion in operating and capital funding to help enhance climate resiliency and rebuild communities impacted by natural disasters. This would include $100 million in capital funding each year to support the replacement or repair of public infrastructure damaged by climate-related events. This capital investment is additional to previous funding provided by the BC Transportation Financing Authority to rebuild provincial highways and bridges. Further, the province recently created the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, with $85 million over three years to increase climate readiness—including adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Apart from building its critical minerals strategy and investing in climate resiliency, adaptation, and mitigation, the province has proposed to commit to clean and sustainable development by growing clean transportation. On the latter point, the government proposed to invest $44 million over three years to help cut emissions-intensive transportation. This will spur investment and growth in the province’s zero-emissions vehicles sector, including passenger vehicles, medium and heavy-duty on-road vehicles, and more.
BC’s investments in climate adaptation and mitigation are necessary to ensure a prosperous society and are likely to facilitate the development and adoption of smart city technologies, clean technologies, and clean energy, all of which are technology enabled.
This brief is part of ICTC’s policy updates series. ICTC provides timely updates on policy and political developments in Canada, including federal, provincial, and territorial elections campaigns, fall economic updates, annual budgets, and other major updates to policy and programs. Briefs are written by Allison Clark, Erik Henningsmoen, Mairead Matthews, Mansharn Toor, Justin Ratcliffe, and Todd Legere, with generous support from the ICTC Research and Policy team.