Finance Minister Mike de Jong shows how income and property transfer taxes (at left) were higher than expected in the first part of the year.

Retail, real estate help keep B.C. in black

Forest fire season tops $300 million in costs, but higher income tax, property transfer tax make up for it

VICTORIA – The B.C. government is on track for a surplus of $277 million for the fiscal year ending next spring, despite a costly forest fire season and a continued decline in revenues from  natural gas and other resource revenues.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong released results from the first quarter of the year Tuesday, showing the surplus down $7 million from the budget forecasts made in February. It showed revenues higher than expected from income taxes and property transfer tax, as well as continued rapid growth in retail sales and sales tax revenues.

Government spending is now forecast to be $381 million more than the budget, with costs of this year’s forest fire season above $300 million. That’s more than last year, but still below the total for 2009 and B.C.’s worst fire year, 2003.

With similar surpluses expected for the next two years, de Jong said the government has room for some “modest” spending increases on programs. But the main emphasis remains paying down operating debt left from the deficit years that followed the financial crisis of 2008.

De Jong said the current trend would see operating debt paid off by 2019-20, for the first time since the 1970s. Capital debt for major construction continues to grow, but not as quickly as the size of the economy.

The B.C. economy continues to add employment, but less than one half of one per cent per year. NDP finance critic Carole James said manufacturing and forestry are struggling while the B.C. Liberal government maintains its focus on natural gas exports.

“We’re almost at the four-year mark for the premier’s jobs plan, and here we are, continuing to see less than half of the number they predicted in terms of job growth,” James said.

The opposition has focused on the government’s reduced spending on post-secondary education, and charging adults $550 per credit for high school courses they take after graduation, in order to qualify for further studies.

“Now’s the time that we should be providing support for people who want to retrain, who want to go back to school, who want to look for for those job opportunities,” James said.

 

Just Posted

Updated: Kelowna cops investigate armed robbery at city centre business

Robbery sparks late afternoon manhunt by armed police officers with guns drawn

UPDATED: Oliver wildfire extinguished, B.C. Wildfire mopping up

6-ha. brush fire contained before it could spread farther

As Penticton Indian Band goes dry, lessons from a northern neighbour

The Esk’etemc First Nation, a Secwepemc people near Williams Lake, has been dry since 1972

Peter’s Bros. scores $9M federal contract to repave highway in Jasper

The Penticton-based company is expected to complete the highway repaving project by late-October

Elvis lives again in Penticton

Elvis Festival back this weekend for 17th year

Updated: Kelowna cops investigate armed robbery at city centre business

Robbery sparks late afternoon manhunt by armed police officers with guns drawn

Late goal gives England 2-1 win over Tunisia

At the last World Cup in 2014, England couldn’t even win a game

Canadian military police officer pleads not guilty to sex assault

Sgt. Kevin MacIntyre, 48, entered his plea today at a court martial proceeding in Halifax

Vernon cold case murder suspect bail hearing Tuesday

Paramjit Singh Bogarh will appear in Vernon Law Courts at 10 a.m. June 19

Tigers looking to lock up title

Face Flames tonight in Penticton

Cheers erupt as Federal Court judge approves historic gay purge settlement

Gay military veterans said they were interrogated, harassed and spied on because of their sexuality

Remains of two people found on Vancouver Island

Officials have not said whether or not the remains belong to two missing men, last seen in Ucluelet in mid-May

Helping B.C.’s helpers cope

The MRT has helped almost 7,000 first responders and street workers in 57 communities in B.C.

Most Read