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.

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Avalanche Canada has issued a special avalanche warning for the Cariboo Mountains effective through the weekend. (Wes Gregg photo)
The city of Williams Lake has received provincial funding for a proposed boardwalk connecting the RC Cotton Trail to the River Valley Recreational Trail. (City of Williams Lake rough visualization of the proposal)
$550,000 provincial funding announced for Williams Lake boardwalk trail

The boardwalk will connect the new RC Cotton Trail to the river valley

100 Mile RCMP Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen. (Patrick Davies photo, 100 Mile Free Press).
100 Mile RCMP investigate theft at airport hangar, 88 other incidents

Incident is one of 89 calls attended by police from Feb. 17 to 23.

Williams Lake city council is interested in acquiring the former Poplar Glade School property on Eleventh Avenue. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake city council sets sights on two former school properties

School District said there is a five-step process for property disposal

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Bryan Adams with his mom, Jane Adams Clark, at Lions Gate Hospital. (Bryan Adams)
Bryan Adams gives shout out to North Shore hospital

The singer’s mom was in Lions Gate Hospital for care

Shoppers will be able to get their hands on signed bottles of Ryan Reynolds’ new gin at B.C. liquor stores this summer. (Twitter/Ryan Reynolds)
Ryan Reynold’s new Aviation Gin autographed and coming to B.C. stores

This summer 100 bottles will be available to the public for purchase across five B.C. liquor stores

An official investigation will be launched after VPD officers were recorded posing near a dead body at Third Beach on Wednesday morning, Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
VIDEO: Vancouver officers under review for allegedly laughing, taking pictures next to dead body

Two officers were caught on video by a local beachgoer Wednesday morning in Stanley Park

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
‘Stay local’: Dr. Henry shoots down spring break travel for British Columbians

B.C. is reportedly working with other provincial governments to determine March break policies

“Our biggest challenge has been the amount of vaccine,” said FNHA acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald. (First Nations Health Authority Facebook photo)
All First Nations on reserve to be vaccinated by end of March: First Nations Health Authority

Vaccinations continuing for B.C. First Nations amid shortages

(Delta Police Department photo)
B.C. youth calls 911 after accruing $7K in online gaming charges

‘Police spoke with the student about appropriate times to call 911’

Site C will go ahead, one year later and $5.3 billion more, the NDP announced Feb 26. (BC Hydro image)
B.C. NDP announces Site C will go ahead with new $16B budget

Reviews recommend more oversight, beefed up foundation stability work

Most Read