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.

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.

 

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

Just Posted

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Seattle Mariners field coordinator Carson Vitale before a game at T-Mobile Park during the 2020 season. Vitale, who grew up in Victoria, has pledged to run 10 miles a day for 2021 and to donate 50 cents per mile to the United Way of King County. (Ben Van Houten/Seattle Mariners)
Mariners coach running 10 miles a day for United Way

Saanich-raised Carson Vitale, Seattle Mariners field coordinator, plans to run 3,650 miles in 2021

Gordon English, construction manager of the Habitat for Humanity project in North Saanich, shows off the current interior of a townhouse part of the affordable housing project. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Families set to move in to affordable housing project in North Saanich by spring

Pending completion of Habitat for Humanity project comes against backdrop of new housing report

A rainbow graces the departure of CCGS John Cabot as it leaves Victoria Jan. 7. (Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Follow a coast guard ship’s trip from Victoria to Halifax, through Panama Canal

Canadian Coast Guard Ship John Cabot left for St. Johns on Jan. 7

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Most Read