Growth, HST help reduce B.C. deficit

The B.C. government finished the fiscal year this spring with a deficit of $309 million, nearly $1 billion less than what was forecast last fall.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon describes B.C.'s improved economic performance in the fiscal year that ended March 31. B.C.'s four-per-cent growth was third after Newfoundland and Saskatchewan

VICTORIA – The B.C. government finished the fiscal year this spring with a deficit of $309 million, nearly $1 billion less than what was forecast last fall.

The savings came partly from extra tax revenues generated by four-per-cent economic growth during 2010-11, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said Monday in releasing the province’s audited public accounts. Some was realized from lower than expected spending in programs such as health care, and some came from extra revenues collected through the harmonized sales tax.

But Falcon wasn’t able to say exactly how much extra revenue the HST brought in during its first year of operation. B.C. sales tax revenues are growing by about $600 million a year, partly due to the fact that provincial sales tax has been extended to a variety of services as well as goods.

But B.C.’s gross domestic product is growing faster than the national average and consumer confidence is strong, so revenues from the former PST would also have grown, Falcon said. And he noted it has been clear since the HST was introduced that it collects more revenue because of the broader tax base.

“It is also a tax that generates greater economic activity, generates more job creation, and that in turn will drive more revenues to the government,” Falcon said.

NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said the government is using “funny math” to produce a rosy picture of the B.C. economy. One reason the past year’s deficit is so much lower is that B.C. collected $769 million from Ottawa, the second half of its $1.6 billion “bribe money” for adopting the HST, he said.

“People have a sense they are being played,” Ralston said. “They have an agenda, they want to ram the HST through and this is just one more instance of that.”

Falcon warned that if the HST is rejected in the referendum that is currently underway, that will cost the province about $3 billion over the next three years. Half of that is to repay the federal government, and the rest is transition costs and extra HST revenue that won’t be collected.

“We will have to manage that $3 billion hit, and the only way you can do that is either have larger deficits, which means borrowing more money and passing the bill onto future generations, or you can increase revenues, or you can reduce spending,” Falcon said.

Because the provincial budget remained in deficit, B.C. cabinet ministers will not receive a 10 per cent holdback to their salaries for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Just Posted

Port Hardy council hesitant to formalize question period in agendas, refers it to committee

In first act as new council, representatives were uncertain about formalizing question periods.

Gas prices on Vancouver Island to drop six cents

But a ‘volatile’ market could lead to increases in the coming weeks

Mt. Waddington’s Salvation Army releases eye-opening statistics report for 2017

Shelter overnight stays saw a 431 per cent increase since 2014.

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

BC Ferries passengers wait to leave Vancouver Island after Remembrance Day

Traffic aboard BC Ferries slows after Remembrance Day long weekend

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Cowichan school district defends lack of notice to parents following elementary student arrest

Officials with School District 79 stand by their decision not to send out an alert.

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Island Corridor Foundation optimistic about restoring rail service

If green-lighted, first priority would be Langford to Victoria route

Canadians more prepared for weather disaster than financial one: poll

RBC recommends people check their bank app as often as the weather app

B.C. dog owner sues after pet killed in beaver trap

A Kamloops man is suing the operator of a trapline north of the city after his dog died

Most Read