Premier Christy Clark listens as Finance Minister Mike de Jong presents the 2014-15 budget last February. The expected surplus has grown to more than $400 million since then.

Surplus to pay off ‘credit cards,’ Clark says

Premier Christy Clark and Finance Minister Mike de Jong don't see much room for new spending as B.C. budget strengthens

VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark and her ministers are fending off calls to increase spending on pressing social priorities as the financial picture brightens for the B.C. government.

With the bills tallied for the first half of the fiscal year, the province is forecasting a surplus of $444 million by next spring, about twice as much as was projected in last February’s budget. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the improvement was helped by a strengthening U.S. economy, despite commodity slumps that have produced declining lumber and coal revenues.

Both de Jong and Clark said their highest priority is to repay about $5 billion in debt accumulated during a string of deficits before the budget was balanced in 2013.

“Like any family that’s been through tough times, the first thing you need to do when you get back to finding a job and making an income again, is to pay off your credit cards,” Clark said in an interview. “We’re going to pay off these credit cards that got charged up after 2008 pretty heavily.”

NDP children and family critic Carole James said the government has achieved surpluses with the help of increases to medical premiums, ferry fares, BC Hydro rate increases and other charges, and it’s time to put some back to the people who need it. Her party has been pressing for removal of a clawback of child support payments from social assistance and disability recipients, an estimated annual cost of $17 million.

“It’s not simply people who are the recipients of child maintenance dollars, but in fact all British Columbians see how unfair it is that that money is clawed back from children,” James said.

Another priority is to increase post-secondary education funds, which are looking at one of a series of budget cuts next year despite the government’s high-profile jobs plan, James said.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, meanwhile, turned away calls from retiring B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

After a series of increases brought the B.C. minimum up to $10.25 by 2012, Bond said the issue is being monitored, along with factors like youth unemployment and inflation.

“You’re certainly not going to see us move to $15 an hour in the short term,” she said.

 

Just Posted

Vancouver Island artist creates portrait of Cache Creek fire chief Clayton Cassidy for his family

‘I felt their loss, and wanted to reach out to them’ says Harpaul Nandhra.

Highway 1 closed between Yale and Boston Bar

A rockslide has closed a portion of the Trans-Canada, with no scheduled re-opening time.

North Vancouver man arrested in Lytton, faces multiple charges

Suspect turned over to Lytton police when he tried to flag a ride with a truck driver.

Cache Creek team taking part in this year’s Baja 1000 off-road race

The grueling race in Mexico takes place over 48 hours, and fewer than half the starters finish.

TNRD hires manager to help residents with fire recovery

Bob Finley will work one-on-one with residents to guide them through the recovery process.

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Start on time: Canucks looking to shake first-period struggles

Canucks centre Bo Horvat said the formula for getting a leg up is there for everyone to see

COMMUTER ALERT: Snowfall warnings in effect across B.C.

Travelling this weekend? Check the forecasts before hitting the road

Drones take off to search for missing North Okanagan women

A volunteer search party was supported by professional drone operators

Tips for keeping your personal data safe, from the experts

It’s important to keep your ‘online footprint’ safe

Lights to turn blue ahead of funeral for fallen Abbotsford police officer

Buildings across B.C. are going blue Saturday night in honour of Const. John Davidson

Ride-share pioneer drives up quietly to B.C. battleground

Lyft approaches B.C. without Uber bombast, eyes small towns

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Pine beetles from Jasper National Park moving into commercial forest

In 2014, beetle activity went from a few spots around Jasper’s townsite to rampant

Most Read