Finance Minister Carole James (Black Press)

Surplus decreased as B.C. wildfire, ICBC costs rise

Finance Minister Carole James promises balanced budget

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James released the province’s second quarter financial update Tuesday, downgrading the forecast surplus for the current year and using the bulk of the government’s forecast allowance to keep the books out of the red.

The projection at the halfway point of the 2017-18 fiscal year is a surplus of $190 million, down $56 million from the first-quarter projection. The biggest jump in provincial spending was $152 million to cover costs of the summer forest fire season. Forest fire efforts also accounted for most of a jump of 267 full-time equivalent B.C. government jobs in the summer.

On the revenue side, the biggest change was a reduction of $643 million in anticipated income tax revenues. James said that was based on the federal government’s update of personal and corporate income taxes collected during 2016, down from the previous forecast.

Another revenue drop of $109 million from earlier forecasts came in commercial Crown corporation revenue. That is mostly due to a downgrade of revenues from ICBC, which continues to struggle with increased claims and legal costs.

RELATED: Report warns of more ICBC rate increases

Other revenues continued at a healthy pace in the quarter from July to September, including property transfer tax, which has been the province’s cash cow during the hot real estate market in recent years. Expected revenues from that tax for the current year were increased by $175 million.

Retail sales also continued to rise in the second quarter, resulting in an upward adjustment of $51 million.

Another bright spot was forest revenues, with the provincial revenue forecast up $55 million, due mostly to higher timber tenure stumpage rates. B.C. lumber prices are near record highs, with high demand from the U.S. despite 20 per cent countervail and anti-dumping duties imposed by the U.S. government at the Canadian border.

B.C. Liberal finance critic Shirley Bond said the strong economic growth is a result of the previous government’s policies.

“Although the NDP inherited a $2.7 billion surplus, they have already managed to dip into British Columbia’s savings and they haven’t even fulfilled most of their major campaign spending promises, including $10-a-day daycare and a $400 renter subsidy,” Bond said.

James said the NDP’s child care and housing pledges are over 10 years, and can be achieved as long as B.C. continues to have strong economic growth.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislaturebc wildfires

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

A Secret Santa program through First Insurance – The Co-operators isn’t happening this year. Black Press file photo
Courtenay insurance company’s Secret Santa a no-go this year

First Insurance – The Co-operators program has run for almost 20 years

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read