Finance Minister Carole James says taxpayer-supported debt will continue to rise as more public infrastructure is built. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

NDP inherits $2.7 billion surplus, eyes spending

B.C. debt up $591M, will continue to grow with construction

Finance Minister Carole James released the province’s public accounts Tuesday, showing an operating surplus of $2.7 billion inherited from the B.C. Liberal government.

The audited books show a $3.4 billion increase in revenue over the finance ministry forecasts for the fiscal year that ended in March. Much of that is tax revenues, including $1.5 billion in additional personal income tax revenue, $212 million more than forecast in corporate income tax, $305 million in extra provincial sales tax, and a windfall of $787 million more in property transfer tax.

The foreign buyer tax added to property transfer tax in Metro Vancouver a year ago raised $102 million of the total.

The total surplus is close to the $2.8 billion surplus announced June 28 by former finance minister Mike de Jong. James said the surplus is a result of a strong economy, and also program underfunding by the former government that left people not sharing in the province’s prosperity.

With last year’s surplus applied to debt, B.C. Liberal finance critic Shirley Bond said the NDP government has indicated only that will spend surplus funds accumulating this year.

“The is should not be a one-time spending spree that government can never afford again,” Bond said. “We need to see a plan to sustain revenues.”

The NDP government will present its budget update on Sept. 11. James said it will carry on most of the previous government’s plans, adding a $100-per-month increase in income assistance rates and removal of fees from adult basic education courses.

The surplus will be handled in “a much more equitable way,” with more investments in services for people, James said. The full NDP program will wait for its first complete budget in February, and James said it will be a balanced budget as directed in her ministerial mandate letter from Premier John Horgan.

“Education is a really good example of the wrong direction the previous government took,” James said.

The audited books for last year show an increase of $591 million in the province’s taxpayer-supported debt, reflecting new construction of Vancouver Island hospitals and other capital expenditures. That will continue as more public infrastructure projects are carried out, James said.

One item facing James in the spring is the NDP promise to eliminate bridge tolls in Metro Vancouver. That means the debt from the Port Mann-Highway 1 project becomes part of government debt.

“Stay tuned,” James said, indicating the government’s plans for bridge tolls will be announced shortly.

Also coming within the next week is a plan from Justice Minister David Eby to deal with the rate pressure on the Insurance Corp. of B.C., which is dealing with a rapid increase in accident claim and legal costs.

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

Just Posted

Aquaculture employee, Michelle Franze, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Women in salmon farming should be celebrated, not bullied

Since mid-December, salmon farming has been one of the leading topics in… Continue reading

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

The platanthera dilatata is the fragrant white bog orchid whose perfume on a hot August day is one of the unforgettable delights of a summer hike in Strathcona Park. Photo supplied
Strathcona Wilderness Institute AGM upcoming

The Strathcona Wilderness Institute (SWI) will hold its 2021 annual general meeting… Continue reading

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

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

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Vancouver Island’s small remote towns to get community-wide vaccine clinics

Island Health to take a wholesale approach to immunization, rather than age-based appointments

Most Read