Premier Christy Clark listens as Finance Minister Mike de Jong presents the 2014-15 budget last February. The expected surplus has grown to more than $400 million since then.

Surplus to pay off ‘credit cards,’ Clark says

Premier Christy Clark and Finance Minister Mike de Jong don't see much room for new spending as B.C. budget strengthens

VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark and her ministers are fending off calls to increase spending on pressing social priorities as the financial picture brightens for the B.C. government.

With the bills tallied for the first half of the fiscal year, the province is forecasting a surplus of $444 million by next spring, about twice as much as was projected in last February’s budget. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the improvement was helped by a strengthening U.S. economy, despite commodity slumps that have produced declining lumber and coal revenues.

Both de Jong and Clark said their highest priority is to repay about $5 billion in debt accumulated during a string of deficits before the budget was balanced in 2013.

“Like any family that’s been through tough times, the first thing you need to do when you get back to finding a job and making an income again, is to pay off your credit cards,” Clark said in an interview. “We’re going to pay off these credit cards that got charged up after 2008 pretty heavily.”

NDP children and family critic Carole James said the government has achieved surpluses with the help of increases to medical premiums, ferry fares, BC Hydro rate increases and other charges, and it’s time to put some back to the people who need it. Her party has been pressing for removal of a clawback of child support payments from social assistance and disability recipients, an estimated annual cost of $17 million.

“It’s not simply people who are the recipients of child maintenance dollars, but in fact all British Columbians see how unfair it is that that money is clawed back from children,” James said.

Another priority is to increase post-secondary education funds, which are looking at one of a series of budget cuts next year despite the government’s high-profile jobs plan, James said.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, meanwhile, turned away calls from retiring B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

After a series of increases brought the B.C. minimum up to $10.25 by 2012, Bond said the issue is being monitored, along with factors like youth unemployment and inflation.

“You’re certainly not going to see us move to $15 an hour in the short term,” she said.

 

Just Posted

A campaign encourages families to put down their phones and talk this Mother’s Day

OpenTable’s #DiningMode gets Okanagan restaurants on board with a no phone policy while dining

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

Olympian Andi Naude retires from freestyle skiing

Penticton native skied in 62 World Cup single and dual moguls events in her career

Syrup commercially produced from Summerland maple trees

Maple Roch produces 50 bottles of syrup after trees in the community were tapped

Activities offered to mark Earth Week in Summerland

Numerous events planned, including the 13th annual Earth Day Celebration on Sunday

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Okanagan College names new fundraising director

Helen Jackman will join the college as executive director of the Okanagan College Foundation and director of advancement

Most Read