Despite cautious expectations, the last fiscal year was very, very good for British Columbia. The best in the country, in fact.
Thanks to a year of strong retail sales, the continuing boom of the province’s real estate market, and the strength of oil, gas, and mining, British Columbia racked up a record $1.7 billion surplus during the last fiscal year, putting it almost $900 million higher than anticipated.
Talking to CKNW, finance minister Mike de Jong said the bounty will give the government room to maneuver, while British Columbians stand to benefit from lower interest payments.
“We are saving hundreds of millions of dollars on debt servicing costs,” said de Jong. “That is money that is available to fund programs, health care, education, public safety, that would otherwise go to financial institutions.”
While the province’s economy grew by 2.6 percent, the total provincial debt continued to rise, up $2.2 billion to $63 billion overall. De Jong says this comes from increased borrowing for projects like schools and hospitals.
The salaries of BC executives were also lowered by about 4 per cent last year, in a cost-cutting measure. De Jong compared to a hockey team developing existing players,rather than signing new free agents.
“We are by population at least a small market team. We have to build a winner,” said de Jong. “We have to identify talent within British Columbia and we have to develop and nurture and develop it internally as opposed to being on the free agency market–which by the way is no guarantee of success.”