Finance Minister Carole James (Black Press files)

B.C. budget surplus expected to keep growing, Carole James says

Economic growth, strong employment pushes surplus forecast to $669 million

Increased tax revenues and steady economic growth have tripled the size of B.C.’s budget forecast for 2018-19, as changes made by the NDP government begin to show their effects on the province’s books.

Finance Minister Carole James released the first quarter financial results for the province Friday, projecting a surplus that has jumped to $669 million for the fiscal year ending next March.

The red-hot urban B.C. real estate market is “moderating,” resulting in declining revenue to the province, James said. The revenue fell by $53 million during the first quarter, from April through June, resulting in a projected drop of $250 million for the entire year.

That was more than made up by a projected increase of more than $1 billion in income tax revenue. Natural resource revenue is also projected to be up $495 million, mainly due to record high lumber prices.

Projected expenses are also up more than $1 billion, led by forest fire costs now estimated to be $477 for the current year. Emergency efforts for flooding also rose $162 million compared to the forecasts in the February budget.

James said the province’s employment picture continues to be the strongest in the country, helping drive the increase in income tax revenue. The threat is that people can get jobs but can’t find a place to live.

“If we don’t have affordable housing, people won’t stay in the province,” James said.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the first quarter results are looking backward, and looking forward things are not so good.

“The NDP inherited a $2.7 billion surplus and the strongest economy in Canada, and now they’re projecting a slowing of growth, a 20 per cent drop in housing starts, which is a formula for widespread unemployment,” Wilkinson said. “And since they took office, the only job growth has been in government, with 10,000 new public sector jobs, and in the meantime 25,000 people in the private sector have lost their jobs.”

Another worry is trade, with the U.S. government threatening to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and uncertainty continuing over lumber and other exports to the U.S.

RELATED: Trump, Trudeau mull walking away from NAFTA

One of the NDP government’s measures that has not yet shown up on the books is the introduction of an employers’ health tax on public and private payrolls over $500,000.

RELATED: Payroll, speculation tax tops B.C. municipal agenda

James reiterated that municipalities will not be getting a break on the new tax, which comes on top of reduced employee Medical Services Plan fees for 2019, before MSP premiums are phased out.

“Yes, they have a challenge in 2019, but we believe the benefit … of eliminating medical services premiums far outweigh the one-year challenge that they face,” James said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Military called in to remove inert practice round found in Quesnel industrial park

A maintenance worker mowing the grass found the round, which turned out to no longer be explosive

Ranch Musings: No-till pasture rejuvenation and sivopasture trials

Columnist David Zirnhelt is hosting a field day Aug. 29 in Beaver Valley

Meet Tour de North cyclist Chris Fedoruk

Quesnel man is a community rider with this year’s Cops for Cancer team

Forestry Ink: Forest tenure changes are occurring throughout the world

Regular columnist Jim Hilton writes about forest tenure and ownership

Quesnel Safeway honours its volunteer shoppers

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Safeway’s volunteer shopper program

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Most Read