Standing afoot in a pair of old black leather shoes, Finance Minister Mike de Jong delivered British Columbia’s provincial budget this afternoon, announcing spending increases amidst a budget surplus of $879 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
“British Columbians have scored a fiscal hat trick. For the third year in a row, British Columbians will have a balanced budget,” said De Jong at the beginning of his budget speech.
The big winners in the 2014-2015 budget are education, health care and social services. “The discipline we showed through the recession to bring the budget into balance has given us the flexibility to make modest, strategic investments that maintain public services like health care and education, as well as strengthen and encourage growth in key economic sectors,” he continued.
Totaling $45.8 billion in spending, the 2015 budget includes spending increases in social services, health and education, along with a scheduled tax cut for high-income earners. Highlights from today’s announcement include:
- $106 million in additional funding over three years for Community Living B.C
- $20 million in additional funding for income assistance programs
$5 million to enhance the B.C. tax reduction credit, allowing individuals to earn more than $19,000 a year before paying any provincial income tax
$3 million for a new children’s fitness equipment tax credit, allowing families to claim up to$250 a year for equipment costs; this is in addition to the existing $500 children’s fitness andarts tax credit
- B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit will provide up to $660 a year for each child under the age of six, to help with the cost of child care, totally $146 million annually
- Training and Education Savings grant will provide a one-time payment of $1,200 for every child resident in B.C. who was born since January 1, 2007
- $564 million in additional funding to kindergarten to Grade 12 education over three years
- $2.1 billion in post-secondary education, skills and trades training capital spending, including:
Emily Carr University of Art + Design Campus; replacement of trades buildings at Okanagan College; renewal and replacement of the trades facility at Camosun College; new facility for the Vancouver Community College and British Columbia Institute of Technology for heavy-duty/commercial transportation trades programs; trades facility at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; and funding for new equipment to modernize and increase capacity to support in-demand priority programs
- $1.6 billion in K-12 education investments, including: Centennial Secondary, Coquitlam; Oak Bay Secondary, Oak Bay; Kitsilano Secondary, Vancouver; Wellington Secondary, Nanaimo; and Clayton North Secondary, Surrey
- An increase of almost $3 billion to the Ministry of Health of three years
- $12.5 million to the Canadian Cancer Society to establish a cancer prevention centre in Vancouver
- $2.7 billion in health infrastructure, including: Children and Women’s Hospital – Phase 1 and 2, Vancouver; North Island Hospitals, Comox Valley and Campbell River; Interior Heart and Surgical Centre, Kelowna
- $2.9 billion in transportation investments, including: Evergreen Line Rapid Transit, Coquitlam; Cariboo Connector; Hwy. 1: Mountain Hwy. Interchange, North Vancouver
Infrastructure, Business and Energy:
Continued tax credits and $6.3 million in new base-budget funding to support B.C.’s mining industry, to continue improvements to permitting and regulatory oversight including increased mine inspections
$25 million over three years to implement the new Water Sustainability Act, which will be in force in 2016
Transitional incentives over three years to encourage the B.C. cement industry to adopt cleaner fuels and further lower emission intensity
Extending the Interactive Digital Media tax credit to 2018 and expanding the Digital Animation or Visual Effects (DAVE) tax credit to include post-production film activities to help keep B.C.’s film and video game industries healthy
Helping ensure B.C. businesses can take advantage of Canada’s access to the renminbi financial market
Partnering with the marine shipping industry to re-establish the International Maritime Centre tohelp attract more shipping companies and their head offices to Vancouver
Finance Minister Mike de Jong told the Canadian Press earlier today that B.C. would be the only province in Canada to achieve a balanced budget this year. As detailed in today’s budget, the government projects another three years of surpluses due to spending cuts and GDP growth.
The 2014-2015 budget forecasts future budget surpluses as follows:
- $284 million in 2015-2016
- $376 million in 2016-2017
- $399 million in 2017-2018
While many people are discouraged by the government’s lack of spending amidst a three-year surplus trend, Chartered Professional Accountants support the Liberal’s decision to manage fiscal constraint.
“We are pleased to see the Minister of Finance is continuing the commitment to balance the books and generate modest budget surpluses over the next three years,” said Richard Rees, CPA, FCA, President and CEO of CPABC. “With surpluses anticipated, the government will be able to pay down the province’s direct operating debt (so called credit card debt) by more than 50 per cent, to $4.8 billion. This will in turn bring down the debt-to-GDP ratio to 16.6 per cent in 2017/18, the lowest level since 1991.”
Featured Image: Province of British Columbia via Flickr