B.C. deficit jumps after HST defeat

The defeat of the harmonized sales tax has nearly tripled B.C.'s deficit forecast for the current fiscal year, doubled it for next year, and left a $458 million gap for 2013 when the B.C. Liberal government has committed to balance the budget and call an election.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon says the government will find a way to bring B.C.'s budget out of the red by 2013.

VICTORIA – The defeat of the harmonized sales tax has nearly tripled B.C.’s deficit forecast for the current fiscal year, doubled it for next year, and left a $458 million gap for 2013 when the B.C. Liberal government has committed to balance the budget and call an election.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon revealed the latest projections in the province’s first quarter economic update Thursday. The ministry calculates that scrapping the HST will cost the provincial treasury $2.2 billion over three years, including $700 million less revenue once the old provincial sales tax is reinstated. Further revenue reductions are expected in later years before economic growth makes up the sales tax revenue.

Falcon said he will be traveling the province this fall for the annual budget consultation, but he has already heard that the public has little appetite for new tax or fee increases to make up for undoing the HST.

He said the cabinet has not yet decided if the “net zero” mandate for public sector union negotiations will be extended after it expires this December. But he gave a strong hint to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, the two largest groups that have not yet agreed to contracts under those conditions.

“I’m not looking at any kind of a rollback in wages,” Falcon said. “I think all we’re saying is that the public sector needs to recognize that in the world we’re in now, this isn’t a good time to be asking for significant increases.”

NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston refused to comment on whether teachers or other government workers should get raises, after his party helped in the two-year effort to repeal the HST. He said if lower-paid public employees have to sacrifice for Falcon’s cost-cutting exercise, executives in government and Crown corporations should also share the pain.

The finance ministry now expects the deficit for 2011-12 to be $2.3 billion, up from $925 million in the spring budget. That is mainly due to borrowing to repay the federal government’s $1.6 billion HST transition fund.

The deficit for 2012-13 is doubled to $805 million, and another $458 million must be made up through cost reductions or extra revenue for the government to balance the books for 2013-14.

The HST reversal means the province’s total debt is expected to reach $62.3 billion in the next three years.

Just Posted

Here’s what Fort St. James councillors refused to hear

Citizens express frustration and anger

Citizens ejected from Municipal Hall – Locked out

Mayor refuses to allow discussion on controversial Bylaw regarding marijuana

UPDATED: 9 killed, 16 injured after van hits pedestrians in Toronto

Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Judith Guichon steps down as Lieutenant Governor of B.C.

Election decision didn’t make her best moments from the past six years

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Malicious Monster Truck Tour coming to Northwest B.C. this summer

It’s the first time in 20 years monster trucks have rolled past Prince George for a northern show

Protesters argue both sides of B.C.’s SOGI curriculum at teachers’ union office

The sexual orientation and gender identity program was launched as a pilot project last year

Prankster broadcasts fake nuclear threat in Winnipeg

The audio recording on Sunday warned of a nuclear attack against Canada and the United States

Most Read