B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong introduces the government's 2013 June Budget Update.

B.C. Budget: Province aims to hold line on union wage demands

Government revenues have fallen $900 million short of February's budget projections, finance minister Mike de Jong revealed.

VICTORIA – Government revenues have fallen $900 million short of February’s budget projections, and teachers and other government workers can expect no new money for wages, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Thursday.

Bright spots for the B.C. economy include an expected recovery in natural gas prices from historic lows, and $500 million in savings on government operations, de Jong said in a post-election budget update.

B.C. is continuing an effective freeze on public sector wage growth that began in 2010. Since the government’s “cooperative gains” mandate in 2012, nearly three quarters of union members have signed contracts with average pay increases of one to two per cent, financed through savings in other areas of operations. Most are two-year deals, with some halfway through.

The projected surplus for this year is trimmed from $197 million in February to $153 million, and de Jong had to trim contingency funds to reach that.

Tax hikes are unchanged from February, including a two-year increase for personal income over $150,000 and a tobacco tax increase set for October.

The budget calls for $30 million in spending cuts this year, after last year’s reduction of $20 million in all ministries except health. The government’s “core review” of government operations is getting underway with a target of another $50 million in savings by the end of 2014, but no program targets are identified in the budget update.

The price for natural gas, the key commodity for the government’s debt reduction plan, is forecast to rise from $2.25 per gigajoule this year to $2.51 and $2.89 in the next two years. Exports of liquefied natural gas to Asia, where prices are currently far higher, can’t begin until well after 2015.

Lumber prices are forecast to decline, from a peak of US $348 per 1,000 board feet this year to $308 in 2014 and $300 in 2015.

De Jong said the government’s asset sales plan is about $8 million ahead of projections, with about half of the properties, bonds and other financial holdings sold or in negotiations to sell. The goal is to raise $475 million for next year’s budget.

Properties already sold include land on Tranquille Road in Kamloops, a school board office in Kelowna, surplus school land in Delta, vacant lots in Burnaby, Surrey and near Victoria General Hospital and former school sites in Surrey and North Vancouver.

Properties going on the market include a former school board office in Surrey, a vacant site north of Kelowna once planned for a provincial prison, former school sites in Central Saanich, Sidney and north central Vancouver Island and land for LNG development in Kitimat.

 

Just Posted

BCSS grads come home to celebrate 50 years

*Hairstyles and outfits may have changed since graduation

Boundary District Arts Council folds amid financial questions

The last board took over in November and could not find receipts for $8,000 in spending

Residents push Grand Forks council to support with flood buyouts

Staff estimate a $6.6 million difference between pre and post-flood value for Grand Forks buyouts

MP warns of scam after catching Facebook Messenger imposter account

Wayne Stetski issues warning about an imposter messenger account that is using his profile photo

Grand Forks mulls in-kind options to support flood buyout residents

$6.6 million difference between pre and post-flood value for Grand Forks buyouts

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

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

Most Read