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Spending pressures mean smaller surplus for B.C. budget: minister

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James leaves the legislative assembly after delivering the budget from the legislative assembly at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, September 11, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
November 28, 2017 - 9:00 PM

VICTORIA - Finance Minister Carole James says she's optimistic about British Columbia's bottom line even though the budget will have a smaller surplus.

The 2017-18 budget has a projected surplus of $190 million, $56 million less than the NDP forecast earlier this year, James said Tuesday in releasing the province's second quarter fiscal update.

The economy is still projected to grow by 2.9 per cent.

Government revenue has dropped by $283 million, largely because it has collected less in personal and corporate income tax, James said. Wildfire costs were also up by $152 million since September's update.

"I'm optimistic we're going to continue to see the growth projections that we see and, in fact, strong growth based on the targeted investments we are putting in place in this province," James said.

She said the minority New Democrat government has proposed long-term plans to support child care and housing.

"Investing in affordable housing is going to help employers who are looking to invest in B.C.," she added.

The province is forecasting a 9.3 per cent boost in retail sales and 17.3 per cent growth in exports.

There were 42,296 housing starts from January to October, keeping pace with the feverish pace of recent years and well ahead of the historic average of 29,465.

"All of these indicators continue to show growth," James said.

She said the previous Liberal government posted large budget surpluses of $2 billion and higher, but more should have been spent on housing, children and those in need.

"Good fiscal management is making sure the economy is strong and the benefits of that strong economy are felt by all British Columbians."

Liberal finance critic Shirley Bond said the positive numbers reflect the fiscal discipline of the former government.

"Although the NDP inherited a $2.7 billion surplus, they have already managed to dip into B.C.'s savings and they haven't even fulfilled most of their major campaign spending," Bond said in a statement.

James would not speculate on the impact the government's impending decision on the future of the Site C dam would have on the budget. The B.C. Utilities Commission has estimated cancelling the hydroelectric dam would cost about $4 billion.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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