British Columbia’s finance minister is promising to stay the course in her next budget to be tabled Tuesday in the legislature, while also monitoring potential storm clouds looming over the economy. Finance Minister Carole James releases the provincial public accounts report during a press conference at the press gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

British Columbia’s finance minister is promising to stay the course in her next budget to be tabled Tuesday in the legislature, while also monitoring potential storm clouds looming over the economy.

Since coming to power more than two years ago, the NDP has made controlling costs for families, with a focus on housing in particular, a hallmark of its economic policies.

Finance Minister Carole James said last week that the government’s focus will continue to be affordability issues facing people in the province, along with improving services and maintaining a sustainable economy.

But as she warned in her last fiscal update, there are signs that economic growth is slowing and that is also a concern as she prepares to present a budget at the midway point of the NDP’s mandate.

“Certainly we’re seeing some moderation of growth in the economy, which makes it a more challenging year, there’s no question about that, but makes it even more important to stay focused on the areas that are priorities for us,” she said.

Premier John Horgan recently said the economy is strong and the budget is balanced, but he noted that people are still struggling to cope with costs like gas prices, car insurance and cellphone charges.

James said to balance the budget means making difficult decisions.

“I don’t think any finance minister would say building a budget is easy. There are always more priorities than there are resources for.”

In November, the Ministry of Finance stuck to its economic growth forecast of 1.9 per cent for 2020, below private sector estimates that were closer to 2.3 per cent. The second quarter fiscal report showed a revised budget surplus of $148 million, down $126 million from the prediction in the budget last February.

James said the government’s approach to its budget has been affected by the amount of money the province has had to put into the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, the Crown auto insurer that has lost $2.5 billion over the past two years.

The minister said she’s been frustrated by having to spend money dealing with the ICBC crisis, when those funds could have gone toward programs and services.

The government recently announced plans to curtail legal costs in the public insurance system by severely limiting the ability of injured people to sue at-fault drivers after a crash. Premier John Horgan said the change will lower premiums by about 20 per cent or an average of $400 in annual savings per driver.

Overall, B.C.’s economy has remained strong, with the province consistently leading the country in economic growth.

In its first 2 1/2 years in office, the minority NDP government has brought in a new benefit that goes into effect in October that would help families with children up to 18 years old. The benefit provides up to $1,600 annually for families with one child, $2,600 for two children and $3,400 for three children.

It has also eliminated Medical Service Plan premiums, increased social assistance payments, eliminated interest on student loans and raised support payments for children of foster parents.

The government has passed legislation that it says will cut B.C.’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent over five years and the child poverty rate by 50 per cent.

Its central environmental initiative has been Clean BC, which received $902 million for programs to fight climate change including financial help for people who buy zero-emission vehicles, who retrofit and switch their homes to energy efficient heating, or replace fossil fuel home heating systems with electric heat pumps.

The government’s climate plan promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050.

READ MORE: B.C. legislature braces for next protest: a budget-day forest industry rally

READ MORE: B.C. advocacy group ‘optimistic’ 2020 provincial budget will fund free birth control

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

budget

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

Just Posted

VIDEO: Community of Oliver salutes frontline medical staff

“Honk for the unsung heros. Thanks to each and every one of you”

Summerland’s April 1 snow measurements above normal

Measurements taken at Summerland Reservoir and Isintok Lake

COLUMN: Responding with the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy

Support available for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Okanagan Skaha School Board does not anticipate closures

School district budget tight as a result of declining enrolment

Q&A: Interior Health CEO answers questions on COVID-19 response

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, answers questions regarding COVID-19

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

Okanagan College student designs map tracking spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

Sean Heddle says fighting complacency and misinformation is important

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Interior Health confirms five additional cases in West Kelowna COVID-19 outbreak

The total amount of confirmed cases at Bylands Nurseries Ltd. is 19; no further cases expected

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

EDITORIAL: Are you a virus jerk? Take our short quiz to find out

Are you a virus jerk? Take this short quiz to learn the… Continue reading

Demand doubles at Revelstoke food bank

Community Connections concerned whether they can meet increasing need

Most Read