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

1914
It happened this week in 1914

May 9 - 15: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

The Salmon Arm RCMP seize hundreds of grams of drugs in a raid in Sorrento on March 20, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
RCMP have suspect identified in rash of local thefts

Police have a suspect in a rash of recent thefts from local… Continue reading

Rotary Way is being repaved from 4th Street South to the second bridge, just past St. Mary’s School. (Barry Coulter photo)
Rotary Way being repaved along Joseph Creek

The Rotary Club is having a portion of its namesake trail repaved.… Continue reading

The Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana. The dam created the Koocanusa Reservoir, which straddles the B.C./Montana border. (photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Outflow at Libby Dam to be increased

Volume increase to aid migration and spawning conditions for endangered white sturgeon in the Kootenai River

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read