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

Surrey RCMP, firefighters support Cloverdale boy’s lonely lemonade stand

Parker, 7, had few takers until Surrey first responders heard his call

Surrey Board of Trade fears SkyTrain expansion will impede other transit needs

‘We need transit improvements in all of Surrey,’ Anita Huberman says

Public hearing set for two Surrey modular housing projects for homeless

Surrey council set to vote Monday on projects in Guildford, Whalley

North Delta Secondary teacher up for B.C. education award

Prabhjot Grewal is up for a Premier’s Award for Excellence in Education in the Outstanding New Teacher category

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Former Fernie Ghostrider re-signs with Vancouver Canucks

Josh Teves has signed a two-year contract with the NHL team

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Most Read