The following electronic version is for
informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
Budget '98: Reports -- Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations -- Province of British Columbia

Report G: Protecting Health Care and Education Funding

Health care expenditures account for approximately one-third of total provincial spending, and education expenditures represent over one-quarter of the total.

The provincial government is committed to protecting the province's health, education and social service programs while meeting its fiscal objectives. Despite reduced federal transfer payments, and freezes on taxes, medical service premiums and tuition fees, the deficit has declined from a peak of $2.5 billion in 1991/92 to a budgeted $95 million in 1998/99. During this same period, funding for education, health care and social services has increased.

Balancing fiscal objectives with health and education priorities has required the government to make some difficult choices. Whenever possible, government has sought to improve efficiency and reduce administration. However, expenditures for other desirable programs have been reduced or eliminated to protect essential services (see Chart G1).

Thumbnail of Chart G1 CHART G1
[ Click to view larger image of Chart G1 ]

Investing in K-12 Education

Increased funding for education programs supports one of government's top priorities -- investing in youth. A highly skilled and educated workforce is critical to competing in a global economy. During the period 1992/93 to 1996/97, British Columbia had the highest average annual rate of spending growth per student in the kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) system of any province in Canada. The rate of spending growth in this sector was several times the average for all provinces (see Chart G2).

Thumbnail of Chart G2 CHART G2
By Province, 1992/93 to 1996/97
[ Click to view larger image of Chart G2 ]

 In fiscal 1998/99, an additional $102 million has been committed. The funds will allow for an additional 400 classroom teachers and 300 librarians, counsellors and teacher aides. This increase will also enable school districts to meet enrolment pressures, provide sufficient funding for special education, English as a Second Language, and aboriginal education needs in the coming year.

While factors other than per student expenditures affect the quality of education, British Columbia students consistently rank among the top achievers in national and international assessments in mathematics and the sciences. Government's focus in 1998/99 and beyond is to ensure all students attain basic literacy and numeracy skills during the primary years (K-3), to reduce class size and to enhance the progression into the work force and/or post-secondary education.

Investing in Post-secondary Education

In the post-secondary education sector, British Columbia is one of the few provinces to preserve and increase spending. Between 1992/93 and 1997/98, total expenditures increased by $200 million, to $1.2 billion 1. On a total per capita basis, this equates to an average annual increase of 1 per cent compared to a 2.3 per cent annual average reduction across Canada (see Chart G3). The increase enabled the province to expand access to, and protect the affordability of, post-secondary education. At the same time, efficiency savings were made through the use of educational technologies (e.g. the Electronic Library Network) and other measures.

Expenditure information in this section is from the office of the federal Secretary of State. Data includes operating grants, matching grants, student financial assistance and debt servicing. 1996/97 and 1997/98 estimates are based on provincial sources, therefore data may not be fully comparable.

Thumbnail of Chart G3 CHART G3
By Province, 1992/93 to 1997/98
[ Click to view larger image of Chart G3 ]

A tuition freeze was introduced in 1996/97 and has been extended through 1998/99 to protect the affordability of education. British Columbia tuition fees are about 20 per cent lower than the average of other provinces (see Chart G4). After adjusting for inflation, tuition fees have actually fallen over the past three years.

Thumbnail of Chart G4 CHART G4
[ Click to view larger image of Chart G4 ]

Investment in Health Care

British Columbia continues to have one of the highest average annual growth rates for health care spending in Canada (see Chart G5).

While British Columbia's growth is slightly behind that of Saskatchewan, per capita spending on health care in 1997/98 is significantly higher than that of Saskatchewan and all other provinces. Based on data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, per capita spending is $1,907 in British Columbia compared with $1,688 in Saskatchewan and $1,618 across all provinces.

Government continues to ensure that the high level of funding results in the best possible value for money in health care delivery. Government has tried to maximize service delivery by working with the health sector to identify efficiency measures such as reference-based pricing, creation of the BC Council on Clinical Practice Guidelines and the Therapeutics Initiative, and peer grouping of hospitals. These efficiency measures have helped to control costs within an environment of population growth, an aging population, new medical technology and pharmaceuticals, and measures to ease or improve waiting times for procedures such as cancer treatment and heart surgery.

The province's overall goal is to protect and enhance British Columbia's health system, considered by many to be one of the best health care systems in the world. The latest data from Statistics Canada ranks British Columbia as having the highest life expectancy in Canada (79 years versus the Canadian average of 78.3 years in 1995).

Thumbnail of Chart G5 CHART G5
By Province, 1992/93 to 1997/98
[ Click to view larger image of Chart G5 ]

Ministry of Health 2 data shows that the province has also been successful in keeping waiting lists stable in most areas and in making considerable progress in reducing waiting times for cancer treatment, hip and knee replacements, cornea transplants and coronary angioplasty. One of the main reasons for this success is the ability of the province to attract highly qualified health sector employees.

The charts presented in this report clearly show that government has been successful in protecting and enhancing health and education funding. With the measures in this budget, British Columbia will maintain its high standing in the health and education areas in 1998/99. Government will continue to monitor its success against other provinces as independent results become available.

Waiting List Report, Fall 1997, Ministry of Health and Ministry Responsible for Seniors.




F&CR BC Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations

If you have questions or comments about content please contact: Communications Branch