The B.C. government tabled a surplus budget Tuesday, which showed some tax breaks for families, health care and education.
But the message the MLA Norm Letnick wants British Columbians to take away from the process, is simply that the government positioned this province to be a survivor.
“The great thing for us is we have a diverse economy,” he said, after the budget.
“We are going to be the only jurisdiction in Canada to manage the budget for 2015 and that’s a testament to the people of B.C. Right now there are a lot of people sending pictures of B.C. weather back east, but I think they should be sending pictures of this budget.”
Highlighting the difficulties that the province had to manage are projected natural resource revenues. Ten years ago they delivered more than 12 per cent of government revenues—this year they’ll produce closer to six per cent. Those losses were mitigated by the diversification Letnick mentioned, noting that the province is moving ahead carefully to not be caught off guard by any further declines in commodity prices.
Therefore the surplus, he explained, will be used largely to pay down operating debt.
The provincial budget shows operating debt of $9.4 billion for the year ending in March, declining to $8.4 billion in 2015-16 and falling below $5 billion by 2018.
Total provincial debt, including roads, hospitals and other capital projects as well as debt held by BC Hydro and other Crown corporations, grows to more than $70 billion by the end of the province’s three-year fiscal plan.
Borrowing will only be done to build provincial assets; some of which the Okanagan will be the beneficiary of.
The current spending plan calls for $10.7 billion more in taxpayer-supported debt.
Included in the projects for the year ahead are:
• Post-secondary facilities include replacement of trade buildings at Okanagan College in Kelowna and Camosun College in Victoria, a trades facility at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in Merritt and relocation of Vancouver Community College and BCIT heavy duty and commercial transportation programs in New Westminster
• New high schools including Centennial Secondary in Coquitlam, Oak Bay Secondary in Oak Bay, Wellington Secondary in Nanaimo, Clayton North Secondary in Surrey and Kitsilano Secondary in Vancouver.
• Transportation projects including Evergreen rapid transit line to Coquitlam, improvements to Highway 97 in the Cariboo and the Mountain Highway interchange in North Vancouver
• Health care projects including North Island Hospitals in Comox and Campbell River, Interior Heart and Surgery Centre in Kelowna and clinical support and acute care centres at Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Vancouver