B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong introduces the government's 2013 June Budget Update.

B.C. Budget: Province aims to hold line on union wage demands

Government revenues have fallen $900 million short of February's budget projections, finance minister Mike de Jong revealed.

VICTORIA – Government revenues have fallen $900 million short of February’s budget projections, and teachers and other government workers can expect no new money for wages, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Thursday.

Bright spots for the B.C. economy include an expected recovery in natural gas prices from historic lows, and $500 million in savings on government operations, de Jong said in a post-election budget update.

B.C. is continuing an effective freeze on public sector wage growth that began in 2010. Since the government’s “cooperative gains” mandate in 2012, nearly three quarters of union members have signed contracts with average pay increases of one to two per cent, financed through savings in other areas of operations. Most are two-year deals, with some halfway through.

The projected surplus for this year is trimmed from $197 million in February to $153 million, and de Jong had to trim contingency funds to reach that.

Tax hikes are unchanged from February, including a two-year increase for personal income over $150,000 and a tobacco tax increase set for October.

The budget calls for $30 million in spending cuts this year, after last year’s reduction of $20 million in all ministries except health. The government’s “core review” of government operations is getting underway with a target of another $50 million in savings by the end of 2014, but no program targets are identified in the budget update.

The price for natural gas, the key commodity for the government’s debt reduction plan, is forecast to rise from $2.25 per gigajoule this year to $2.51 and $2.89 in the next two years. Exports of liquefied natural gas to Asia, where prices are currently far higher, can’t begin until well after 2015.

Lumber prices are forecast to decline, from a peak of US $348 per 1,000 board feet this year to $308 in 2014 and $300 in 2015.

De Jong said the government’s asset sales plan is about $8 million ahead of projections, with about half of the properties, bonds and other financial holdings sold or in negotiations to sell. The goal is to raise $475 million for next year’s budget.

Properties already sold include land on Tranquille Road in Kamloops, a school board office in Kelowna, surplus school land in Delta, vacant lots in Burnaby, Surrey and near Victoria General Hospital and former school sites in Surrey and North Vancouver.

Properties going on the market include a former school board office in Surrey, a vacant site north of Kelowna once planned for a provincial prison, former school sites in Central Saanich, Sidney and north central Vancouver Island and land for LNG development in Kitimat.


Just Posted

Victoria painter splashes some colour on a dreary situation

Six-week long James Bay construction project gives Teresa Waclawik an impromptu canvas

Oak Bay fire latest hire comes from Kelowna

Darren Lee starts as assistant fire chief April 16 after coming from West Kelowna department

B.C. Transit to reduce service for spring

Route changes come in to effect April 9

Man arrested, charged in connection with stabbing at Langford Lanes

Twenty-year-old Austin Bonner has been charged with aggravated assault

Easter Bunny confirms plans to visit Oak Bay

6th Annual Oak Bay Easter Celebration brings Easter Bunny, egg hunt, and fun

Lilia Zaharieva wants to share her medical good fortune

UVic student wants treatment for cystic fibrosis made available for all

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

City of Victoria seeks artists to contribute to upcoming public exhibitions

Submissions for Commercial Alley gallery, bus shelter project due by April 9

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Plane filled with smoke lands at Nanaimo Airport

WestJet flight came in from Vancouver

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Rescued Comox canoer credits those ‘at the right place, at the right time’

James Milne was rescued in a hypothermic state Sunday near Goose Spit

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

Most Read