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

UPDATED: Evacuation alert issued due to Dog Creek Trail Wildfire

UPDATED: The Dog Creek wildfire has grown substantially over the past two… Continue reading

Locals converge for Cannabis Community Consultation meeting

Public feedback taken into account as DOV moves forward

Holi Festival of Colours celebrated in Vanderhoof

Last weekend, around 20 Vanderhoof residents took part in Holi, a Hindu… Continue reading

College of New Caledonia announces early childhood educator training

Vanderhoof students may benefit from the program expansion

Vulnerable B.C. communities receive funds for structural flood mitigation

Communities throughout British Columbia that have been partial to flood risks in… Continue reading

Here’s what you need to know about Day 2 at the BC Games

From equestrian to volleyball to swimming, all 18 events in full swing here in the Cowichan Valley

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

PHOTO GALLERY: BC Games Day 2

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

BC Wildfire update on 14 major Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

UPDATED: Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters defy eviction order

Demonstrators at Camp Cloud in Burnaby say they won’t leave, but will meet with city officials

B.C. tent city camper arrested for taking coins from fountain

The man, who built a shelter at a Saanich park, says homeless people are unfairly targeted

Ex-Raptor DeMar DeRozan says goodbye to Toronto on Instagram

The guard was traded to the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green

Okanagan wildfires have potential to become firestorms, says UBC expert

David Andison said to let smaller fires go, to create pockets in the landscape for new forests

2017 wildfires give B.C. mom chance to say thank you to officer who saved her son

An unlikely encounter in the rural community of Likely, near Williams Lake

Most Read