B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)

B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

B.C.’s current COVID-19-driven deficit is coming in at $8.1 billion, not the $13.6 billion that was projected, but the province has much more borrowing ahead to recover from the pandemic.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson laid out the NDP government’s three-year budget Tuesday, calling for a further $19 billion in borrowing to build up the health care system and carry on support programs for individuals and businesses. Income and property purchase taxes have pushed provincial revenues higher than forecast.

“The swift development of effective vaccines, together with stronger than expected economic activity in 2020 has improved the outlook,” Robinson told reporters in a virtual budget presentation from Victoria April 20.

Overall spending is increased by $8.7 billion over the three years of the budget, including “permanent funding increases” for health care, education, justice and public safety services and opioid and substance abuse prevention. Deficits are forecast to be $9.7 billion in the fiscal year just beginning, declining to $5.5 billion in 2022-23 and $4.3 billion in 2023-24.

Among those permanent increases is an additional $175-per-month in income and disability assistance payments, on top of $150 from previous NDP budgets, and a $50 increase in the seniors’ supplement.

Spending commitments also include another $100 million to continue B.C. Recovery Benefit payments of up to $1,000 per family and $500 for individuals, announced before last fall’s election. The program has paid out $1.2 billion without requirement to show pandemic income loss, and remains open for applications until June 30.

Uncertainty over B.C.’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weigh on the province’s forecasts. The finance ministry has included pandemic and recovery contingency funds of $3.25 billion in 2021-22, $1 billion in the following fiscal year and $800 million in 2023-24.

RELATED: B.C. extends indoor dining ban, moves to restrict travel

RELATED: B.C. nurses plead for public health orders to be followed

In health care, contingency funds of $1.5 billion for 2022-23 and $2 billion for 2023-24 are included “for caseload pressures and priority initiatives that may require funding in future budgets.” Health Minister Adrian Dix said this week that rising numbers of COVID-19 patients coming into hospitals have already resulted in some patient transfers and scheduled surgery delays, and bed capacity is nearing its limits as coronavirus cases have been running at close to 1,000 per day.

After the B.C. economy shrank by 5.5 per cent in 2020, the budget predicts it will expand by 4.4 per cent in 2021, and then grow by 3.8 per cent in 2022. From 2023 to 2025, the growth forecast is 2.1 to 2.5 per cent per year, below the government’s private sector forecast council except for 2025, when the province expects to see LNG Canada’s natural gas exports begin.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

2021 B.C. BudgetBC politicsCoronavirus

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

District of Clearwater meetings are open to the public. The meeting agendas and past meetings minutes can be viewed on the DOC's website. Every meeting has time allocated at the end for comments from the public.
District of Clearwater hires new chief adminstrative officer

The new CAO will arrive at the end of June.

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Brad MacKenzie, advocacy chair for the ALS Society of B.C., says having research projects in the province allows people here to have access to cutting-edge treatments now being developed. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds research chair for Lou Gehrig’s disease at UBC

Pandemic has cut off patient access to international projects

Most Read