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

B.C. freestyle skier wins gold

Cassie Sharpe of Comox shines in the halfpipe

Thrilling finish to 59th All Native Tournament

Kitamaat, Hydaburg, Port Simpson and Kitkatla win championships in 2018 All Native Tournament

Day 6 from the All Native Basketball Tournament

Scores from Feb. 16 and finals matchups at the All Native Tournament in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Day 5 of the All Native Basketball Tournament

Scores from Feb. 15 at the All Native Tournament in Prince Rupert

Queen Charlotte voters test sewage plan ahead of Feb. 24 referendum

Comparing Martynuik Road site and Skidegate tie-in a key issue at council Q & A

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

COLUMN: Benning stands firm on Gudbranson, will keep him with Canucks until 2021

Canucks opt to not trade the 26-year-old defenseman, but sign him to multi-year deal

Students head to Florida capital to press for gun law change

Young protestors are joining a grassroots movement against gun violence in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida

Liberals look at use-it-or-lose-it parental leave for dads

Liberals looking at creating a use-it-or-lose-it leave for fathers, Trudeau says

Fred Rogers, America’s favourite neighbour, celebrated in 2018

The golden anniversary of America’s favorite neighbor is being celebrated with a PBS special next month

Toddler breaks leg after boot sucked into escalator at Vancouver airport

A Calgary woman is reminding parents of the dangers of escalators after her toddler’s foot was stuck in one and he broke his leg

Moose creates uber Canadian Olympic moment

A Calgary man shares a truly Canadian moment on Twitter of a Moose enjoying the Olympics

B.C. drunk driver unknowingly drags snowmobiles along highway

North District RCMP stopped a driver Sunday near Prince George whose two sleds had fallen off a flat deck trailer and were being dragged along behind his truck.

Most Read