B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

Budget surplus hits $2.24 billion, but B.C. braces for schools settlement

Finance minister Mike de Jong won't say how much of a hit is expected from teachers' court win

B.C.’s projected budget surplus has climbed further to an estimated $2.24 billion.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong released that number as part of a generally upbeat second quarter financial update Tuesday.

He cautioned B.C. is bracing for significantly higher education budget costs in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of the B.C. Teachers Federation on classroom size and composition requirements.

De Jong declined to provide an estimate.

“It would be presumptive on my part and the government’s part to lay out our figure or unilaterally state what we believe that figure will be,” he said.

“The fiscal plan is healthy and we are in a position to accommodate the results of the negotiation that is now underway.”

Asked if the improved budget could allow B.C. to further raise social assistance rates, de Jong said that will be a priority, but cautioned there’s no certainty a large government surplus will repeat each year.

“The landscape is littered with the carcasses of governments past and the deficits they incurred because assumptions were made that a present set of circumstances would repeat in perpetuity.”

He also noted that public sector workers will be receiving nearly one per cent more pay over and above their contractual wage increases under B.C.’s economic stability mandate dividend, because the province’s growth has exceeded benchmarks. The latest 0.35 per cent dividend, resulting from 3.3 per cent economic growth for B.C. in 2015, takes effect in February and is on top of a 0.45 per cent bump a year earlier.

B.C. has seen an increase of 71,400 jobs so far this year, up 3.1 per cent as of October.

De Jong was also asked to respond to the potential that U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s administration may start a trade war.

More protectionist policy from American leaders would also hurt the U.S. at a time when that country needs more B.C. lumber to accommodate growth projections, de Jong said.

No advertising campaign is contemplated at this time, he said, but he did not rule out strenuous lobbying by B.C.

“We are going to have to ramp up in a strategic way to ensure that Americans themselves understand there’s a price to be paid for protectionism and that it is not just a price you inflict upon others.”

He noted the U.S. forest industry has already fired the first shot against B.C. softwood lumber imports, with a petition that could lead to an initial ruling as early as spring.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Highway 3A reopened after mudslide cleared

A mudslide closed Highway 3A between Castlegar and Nelson just north of the Brilliant Dam on Wednesday.

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Fire near Baynes Lake

On Sunday, April 22, a fire was discovered in the Baynes Lake area.

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

Most Read