VICTORIA – The federal government has joined B.C. in the balanced budget club, but it comes at a cost to provincial revenues.
Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his first budget Tuesday, featuring increased defence spending and a new public transit fund that wouldn’t take effect until after the federal election scheduled for this fall.
B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said changes in the federal budget such as reducing small business tax and allowing personal income splitting for couples have a flow-through effect on provincial revenues. That could be between $18 million and $30 million to B.C., he said.
De Jong said the B.C. government supports the reduction in federal small business tax rate, which is to decline from 11 to nine per cent by 2019.
A new federal fund to help pay for transit doesn’t take effect until 2017, but de Jong said he expects current federal infrastructure programs to continue until then.
Federal Industry Minister James Moore said the Conservative government is still distributing funds from the $70 billion infrastructure fund that was included in last year’s budget, and the new fund is in response to cities’ demands.
The mayors of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and the national and provincial municipal associations have all endorsed the budget, Moore said.
B.C. NDP finance critic Carole James said the federal budget seems to have missed B.C. priorities, and it was frustrating to see Ottawa balance its books on the same day as the Canadian Coast Guard closed another West Coast facility.
The Coast Guard’s marine communications and traffic centre at Ucluelet is closed, with the function transferred to Prince Rupert. A similar station in Vancouver is to close May 6, with traffic monitored from Victoria, and another monitoring station at Comox is set to close this year, according to Unifor, the union representing Coast Guard employees.
Moore said the rationalization and modernization of ship tracking systems on the West Coast will improve safety, and has already been done on the East Coast.
Business Council of B.C. president Greg D’Avignon said balancing the national budget, investing in transit and providing investment incentives for industries such as liquefied natural gas and forestry will help offset the effects of a slump in oil prices and weak commodity markets.