MLA credits public-sector unions for helping to balance budget

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a balanced budget that forecasts $841 million in surpluses over the next three fiscal years.



B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a balanced budget that forecasts $841 million in surpluses over the next three fiscal years.

Included is $350 million to support families and safety, a large chunk of which will maintain services for adults with developmental disabilities.

The Ministry of Health budget will increase by $2.5 billion over the course of the three-year fiscal plan. New hospitals in Courtenay and Campbell River are among $11 billion worth of taxpayer-supported capital projects across the province.

Provincial debt is expected to increase to $68.9 billion over three years as government continues to borrow to build schools, roads, hospitals and bridges. But the Province also expects the debt-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio to drop to 17.8 per cent by 2016/17, the lowest among Canadian provinces. The ratio in Quebec, by comparison, is 56 per cent.

B.C. boasts an AAA credit rating and, along with Saskatchewan, is one of only two provinces with a balanced budget.

Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce lunch Friday at the Westerly, credits the public sector for stepping up.

“We’re balancing our budget based on a $175-million surplus this year, based on a $43-billion budget,” said McRae, noting provinces such as Ontario won’t see a balanced budget for some time. “We do not spend money recklessly.”

If B.C. had Ontario’s debt-to-GDP ratio of 37 per cent, he said government would be forced to increase taxes or fund fewer services.

“For next year, we’re working on a two-per-cent GDP growth.”

Because the Province is taking a conservative approach to its debt-to-GDP ratio and to its projections, McRae does not expect to see “a ton of new projects” announced in the next few years. Still, the Province expects one million new job openings in various sectors by 2020.

Locally, McRae foresees about 1,500 jobs resulting from hospital construction over four years in the Valley, and another 900 jobs from the John Hart Dam project in Campbell River between 2014 and 2019.

When the regional hospital is completed in 2017, McRae expects a North Connector linking Veteran’s Parkway to Piercy Road will also be completed.

“That project could range from $10 to $30 million as well.”

Another multi-million dollar project possibly on the horizon involves seismic upgrading at Vanier Secondary School.

McRae is the Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation. He injected an additional $243 million into the three-year fiscal plan for Community Living B.C., which serves about 16,000 individuals in the province.