B.C.’s budget in the black: minister
B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong used the term “boring” to describe his government’s balanced budget that contained a razor-thin $175-million surplus this year.
“The budget in two words? I came up with three: Boring, balanced budget,” he said Tuesday in presenting the $44-billion budget. “We’re one of only two provinces in Canada that can boast that happy state of boring.”
The other is Saskatchewan.
And although de Jong had been telegraphing it would be a no-frills budget — even eschewing the tradition of buying new shoes before budget day and resoling an old pair instead — there is new money for services to help the poor and disabled, and tax relief for families and first-time homebuyers.
The province will spend an additional $350 million over the next three years for income assistance, Community Living BC, education programs for children and youth with disabilities, and legal aid.
Also, the province is raising the threshold of the Property Transfer Tax for first-time homebuyers by $50,000 to $475,000.
Smokers are getting hit, too, with a tobacco tax hike that amounts to 32 cents more per pack of cigarettes. It’s expected to bring in $50 million more a year for the province, and de Jong said a “significant” amount of that money would be used to prevent cancer.
The federal government also hiked the excise duty on tobacco products last week by about 40 cents a pack, or $4 a carton.
As for the province's golden goose, liquefied natural gas, the government is still finalizing a two-tier tax regime it will impose on LNG plants once they are up and running. Legislation will be introduced this fall with more specifics, but in brief, a lower tax rate of 1.5% will be applied to a company's net profits until the capital costs of building the plant have been recovered. Then, a higher rate of up to 7% will be applied thereafter.
- “This is supposed to be a jobs budget, but it predicts growing unemployment. What’s needed in B.C. is more good jobs, with better wages. That takes significant investment in education and training, and this budget fails to deliver.”— Jim Sinclair, president, B.C. Federation of Labour
- “Business has been clear: Government’s No. 1 priority must be to keep its fiscal house in order. Budget 2014 does that by controlling spending while making modest investments into measures to help grow the economy.” — John Winter, CEO, B.C. Chamber of Commerce
- “The BC Building Trades has been working with the government and industry stakeholders to prepare for the upcoming boom in LNG-related construction. We’re prepared to double our training capacity if the funding and market conditions are in place.” — Tom Sigurdson, executive director, BC Building and Trades Council
- “It’s not a perfect or exciting budget, but balance is an accomplishment that deserves recognition.” — Jordan Bateman, B.C. director, Canadian Federation of Taxpayers
- “This budget shows Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals aren’t fighting to make life more affordable for British Columbia’s families. In fact, it does the opposite." — New Democrat finance critic Mike Farnworth.
- “It is clear from today’s budget however that there will not be corresponding protection of our environment. The budget contains nothing that will ensure ‘world-class’ environmental protection. Wishful thinking won’t make this industry green, and neither will running pipelines through parks.” — Gwen Barlee, Policy Director, Wilderness Committee