Premier Christy Clark listens as Finance Minister Mike de Jong presents the 2014-15 budget last February. The expected surplus has grown to more than $400 million since then.

Surplus to pay off ‘credit cards,’ Clark says

Premier Christy Clark and Finance Minister Mike de Jong don't see much room for new spending as B.C. budget strengthens

VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark and her ministers are fending off calls to increase spending on pressing social priorities as the financial picture brightens for the B.C. government.

With the bills tallied for the first half of the fiscal year, the province is forecasting a surplus of $444 million by next spring, about twice as much as was projected in last February’s budget. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the improvement was helped by a strengthening U.S. economy, despite commodity slumps that have produced declining lumber and coal revenues.

Both de Jong and Clark said their highest priority is to repay about $5 billion in debt accumulated during a string of deficits before the budget was balanced in 2013.

“Like any family that’s been through tough times, the first thing you need to do when you get back to finding a job and making an income again, is to pay off your credit cards,” Clark said in an interview. “We’re going to pay off these credit cards that got charged up after 2008 pretty heavily.”

NDP children and family critic Carole James said the government has achieved surpluses with the help of increases to medical premiums, ferry fares, BC Hydro rate increases and other charges, and it’s time to put some back to the people who need it. Her party has been pressing for removal of a clawback of child support payments from social assistance and disability recipients, an estimated annual cost of $17 million.

“It’s not simply people who are the recipients of child maintenance dollars, but in fact all British Columbians see how unfair it is that that money is clawed back from children,” James said.

Another priority is to increase post-secondary education funds, which are looking at one of a series of budget cuts next year despite the government’s high-profile jobs plan, James said.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, meanwhile, turned away calls from retiring B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

After a series of increases brought the B.C. minimum up to $10.25 by 2012, Bond said the issue is being monitored, along with factors like youth unemployment and inflation.

“You’re certainly not going to see us move to $15 an hour in the short term,” she said.

 

Just Posted

Province not doing enough for forestry sector, say Liberals

Although Minister of Forests says government working to diversify industry, rural economies

Column: how to bring young blood to ranching

A Young Agarians program seeks to partner new ranchers with old

Stolen truck involved in fatal collision on Highway 16

Wednesday’s two-vehicle crash killed one man, 23, and injured two others

Local company Northern Homecraft wins big at Northern B.C. awards

Vanderhoof company won in two categories for homes built in Fort St. James area

Column: the 4-H way of life

Local 4-H member Jacinta Meir on what being a member means to her

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

California wildfire death toll hits 63

Sheriff says hundreds still missing in nation’s deadliest wildfire

Harsh storms have nearly tripled power outages in last five years, BC Hydro says

More frequent and severe storms have damaged Hydro’s electrical systems since 2013

Trudeau to meet key Pacific trade partners at APEC leaders’ summit

Canada became one of the first six countries to ratify the CPTPP

Judge orders White House to return press pass to CNN’s Acosta

U.S. District Court Judge will decide on White House press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta

WikiLeaks chief could see charges, US court filing suggests

Charges against Julian Assange could help illuminate the question of whether Russia co-ordinated with the Trump campaign

Federal MPs denounce controversial Facebook post targeting Sajjan

Okanagan Conservatives apologize for controversial Facebook post

Canada has enough pipelines to get the moon

Pipelines totalling 840,000 kilometres run across Canada

Migrants streaming into Tijuana, but now face long stay

U.S. border inspectors are processing about 100 asylum claims a day at the main border crossing with San Diego

Most Read