B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong projects surplus in 2014 budget
The B.C. government tabled a budget today (February 18) that forecasts a $184-million surplus next year.
“It may not be glitzy or chock full of goodies, but it’s the right plan for British Columbia,” B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said as he introduced the fiscal plan in the B.C. legislature.
The government is also projecting surpluses for the following two years, with $206-million in 2015-2016, and $451-million in 2016-2017.
Spending increases outlined in the budget include $243 million for Community Living B.C. over three years for people with developmental disabilities, $15 million over three years for children and youth with special needs, $6 million for legal aid-related services, and $29-million over three years to support the development of the liquefied natural gas industry.
MSP premiums will go up by about four percent, smokers will see taxes on tobacco increase by 32-cents a pack, and legislation will be introduced to implement the previously announced B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit.
B.C. NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth criticized the fiscal plan as a “have-not” budget.
“This year’s budget has two major components: families pay more, and families will get less as this budget ignores the issues facing average British Columbians and the families that make up this province,” he said in the legislature.
Farnworth said the plan reduces postsecondary spending over the next three years, contains no new funding for skills training, and lacks a comprehensive plan to tackle child poverty.
George Heyman, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview, called the budget a "sham".
"The claim that we have a balanced budget is outlandish when you look at the fact that the government continues to take a sizeable dividend-far in excess of the actual budget surplus-from a debt-laden B.C. Hydro," Heyman told the Straight by phone. "And that will be subsidized by higher than otherwise necessary B.C. Hydro rate increases."
The budget also drew criticism from some B.C. environmental groups, with Wilderness Committee policy director Gwen Barlee stating that the B.C. government is “betting the farm on the development of a massive LNG industry in BC”.
“It is clear from today’s budget however that there will not be corresponding protection of our environment,” she said in a press release. “The budget contains nothing that will ensure ‘world-class’ environmental protection. Wishful thinking won’t make this industry green, and neither will running pipelines through parks.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business applauded B.C. on tabling a balanced budget, but director of provincial affairs Mike Klassen said he was surprised there was no mention of small business.
“While B.C. stands to gain someday from the growth of the liquefied natural gas sector, it is important for government to recognize that it is small business which is creating jobs and generating tax revenue today,” he said in a news release.
Other spending outlined in the budget includes an increase of $2.5 billion in health funding over three years.
According to the Hospital Employees’ Union, that places B.C. ninth place among Canadian provinces in per capita support for health care.
"Clearly, we need to invest in residential care and community health services now to take pressure off our hospitals over the long term," HEU secretary-business manager Bonnie Pearson said in a news release. "But this budget is a recipe for more hallway medicine."
The budget tabled today projects a $175-million surplus for the end of this fiscal year.
With a file from Charlie Smith.