Finance Minister Mike de Jong presents the audited public accounts at the B.C. legislature Tuesday

B.C. budget surplus $353 million

The B.C. government finished the fiscal year in March with a surplus of $353 million by keeping overall spending growth below one per cent

The B.C. government finished the fiscal year in March with a surplus of $353 million by keeping overall spending growth below one per cent, according to audited public accounts released Tuesday.

It’s the first official surplus budget for B.C. since the 2008-09 recession, and a bigger surplus than what was promised by the B.C. Liberal government in last year’s election campaign.

Total program spending increased only 0.4% during the year, which Finance Minister Mike de Jong credited mainly to a hiring freeze and restrictions on discretionary spending in ministries. Health care spending rose $360 million over the previous year, which was more than $500 million lower than the forecast in the government’s post-election budget. Education spending was up $299 million, while spending in natural resource ministries fell $337 million.

The province stayed in the black despite taxation revenues coming in $402 million less than the budget forecast. Natural resource revenues to the province exceeded forecasts by $109 million.

NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth said the surplus budget was achieved “by picking the pockets of hard-working British Columbians” with higher fees and increases to BC Hydro, ICBC and other rates. Farnworth said the public accounts show B.C. residents are paying an extra $300 million a year in fees and licences, not counting the latest increases to BC Hydro and Medical Services Plan rates.

De Jong noted that the province’s total debt continues to rise, topping $60.8 billion including debt of BC Hydro and other Crown agencies.

“We are borrowing to build instead of paying for the groceries,” de Jong said of the additional debt, which includes $3.2 billion for schools, highways, transit and hospitals.

B.C.’s debt stands at 18.2% of gross domestic product, about half of the level of Ontario and the federal government’s debt-to-GDP ratio.

 

Just Posted

Parksville powerlifter qualifies for world championships

Buhler sets personal bests in both raw and equipped lifting events

Wires left dangling after van crashes into hydro pole in Dashwood

Road closed while BC Hydro crews dealt with situation

Police go on hunt for distracted drivers in Parksville Qualicum Beach

One motorist ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt and using a cellphone while driving

Motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash west of Whiskey Creek

Witnesses say three vehicles involved in collision; man in 70s confirmed dead

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

Search and rescue team helicopters injured climber from B.C. provincial park

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Trudeau calls May 6 byelection for B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith

The riding opened up when Sheila Malcolmson resigned in January

B.C. VIEWS: The hijacking of our education system gathers speed

Children taught to strike and shout fringe far-left demands

Judges on Twitter? Ethical guidance for those on the bench under review

Canadian judges involvement in community life are among issues under review

Most Read