Finance Minister Mike de Jong shows how income and property transfer taxes (at left) were higher than expected in the first part of the year.

Retail, real estate help keep B.C. in black

Forest fire season tops $300 million in costs, but higher income tax, property transfer tax make up for it

VICTORIA – The B.C. government is on track for a surplus of $277 million for the fiscal year ending next spring, despite a costly forest fire season and a continued decline in revenues from  natural gas and other resource revenues.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong released results from the first quarter of the year Tuesday, showing the surplus down $7 million from the budget forecasts made in February. It showed revenues higher than expected from income taxes and property transfer tax, as well as continued rapid growth in retail sales and sales tax revenues.

Government spending is now forecast to be $381 million more than the budget, with costs of this year’s forest fire season above $300 million. That’s more than last year, but still below the total for 2009 and B.C.’s worst fire year, 2003.

With similar surpluses expected for the next two years, de Jong said the government has room for some “modest” spending increases on programs. But the main emphasis remains paying down operating debt left from the deficit years that followed the financial crisis of 2008.

De Jong said the current trend would see operating debt paid off by 2019-20, for the first time since the 1970s. Capital debt for major construction continues to grow, but not as quickly as the size of the economy.

The B.C. economy continues to add employment, but less than one half of one per cent per year. NDP finance critic Carole James said manufacturing and forestry are struggling while the B.C. Liberal government maintains its focus on natural gas exports.

“We’re almost at the four-year mark for the premier’s jobs plan, and here we are, continuing to see less than half of the number they predicted in terms of job growth,” James said.

The opposition has focused on the government’s reduced spending on post-secondary education, and charging adults $550 per credit for high school courses they take after graduation, in order to qualify for further studies.

“Now’s the time that we should be providing support for people who want to retrain, who want to go back to school, who want to look for for those job opportunities,” James said.

 

Just Posted

Firefighters battling two blazes on Highway 1 south of Ashcroft

Highway has reopened to single-lane, alternating traffic led by a pilot car so expect delays

Fires on Highway 1, CN mainline keep Ashcroft firefighters busy

Two vehicle fires and a rail fire sparked within an 11-day span

Reports on seniors’ needs, downtown show way forward for Cache Creek

‘I hope they won’t gather dust’ says Cache Creek mayor

Counselling support available for those impacted by wildfires

New, confidential, free service in region designed for families or individuals

Local News Briefs: Come out and rock

Join Rawkn’ Art Camp participants as they show off their accomplishments, and stay for a concert

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