B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)

How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Opposition critics will be taking aim at B.C.’s delayed budget, which might not be finalized until some time in May, as the the B.C. legislature begins its delayed spring session March 1 and heads into its second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest finance ministry estimate is a record deficit of $13.6 billion for the current fiscal year that ends March 31. Finance Minister Selina Robinson has indicated that the next budget won’t be presented until April 20, which means the NDP government will need more interim spending authority to keep the province going.

Opposition leader Shirley Bond says the delays are more than just an accounting concern for a province with an annual operating budget of more than $50 billion and thousands of community agencies depending on it.

“We will be discussing [ministry spending] estimates until likely May, which creates ongoing uncertainty for organizations across this province who may not know what their funding allocations are,” Bond told Black Press Media.

In June of 2020, former finance minister Carole James passed legislation giving the province authority to run three years of deficits, and Robinson’s first budget in April will give a further indication of how much borrowing is still to come.

RELATED: B.C. moves to allow three years of budget deficits

RELATED: Income tax, property transfer tax keep rolling in

The B.C. Liberals expect to see new legislation starting March 1, and wonder about the lengthy wait for a budget that Bond said could have been delivered in February. The NDP government has struggled to deliver on Premier John Horgan’s election promise to send $1,000 COVID-19 support payments to almost every family, regardless of whether they lost income in the pandemic, and small business help has also stalled.

“The government is basically going to try to fill a calendar full of session days to try to get to a budget date that is probably the end of April,” Bond said. “My concern is that we as the opposition and the people of British Columbia have no idea how program spending has gone, what the deficit is ultimately going to look like, and how we’re going to begin to rebuild the economy.”

During a quick and mostly virtual post-election legislature sitting in December, Robinson got approval to borrow another $2 billion and released B.C.’s second quarter financial statement, also two months later than usual. The deficit did not go up by the entire $2 billion, thanks to stronger than expected income tax revenue and property transfer taxes, which continue to be a cash cow for the province as the urban real estate market continues to rise.

Retail sales actually recovered to a higher level in September 2020 than they were before the pandemic, thanks partly to federal and provincial income support payments that far exceeded the income actually lost in the first months of the pandemic.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shuswap Middle School principal Sydney Griffith notified parents on Tuesday, April 20 that a member of the school community had tested positive for COVID-19. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap Middle School parents notified of new potential COVID-19 exposure dates

April 20 notice says member of school community tested positive for virus

B.C.’s 2021 budget is trending in the right direction to support farmers, says the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
B.C. budget receives thumbs up from Okanagan fruit growers

BCFGA general manager said budgetary investments put farming industry on a good trajectory for recovery

Vernon Vipers forward Tyler Carpendale (left) and Salmon Arm Silverbacks counterpart Noah Serdachny keep their eyes on the action during Vernon’s 5-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play win Tuesday, April 20, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers romp past Salmon Arm

Snakes score 5-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play victory Tuesday, April 20, at Kal Tire Place

Susan Martin and Peter Gook from Salmon Arm are the honorees in Vernon for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s largest fundraiser, the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s. People are encouraged to register, fundraise and walk throughout May 2021 to support the programs and services of the society. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm couple honoured in this year’s walk for Alzheimer’s

People are asked to participate to raise funds for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Reilly Jorgensen watches his grandmother’s dogs after she fractured her ankle while walking the pups at Enterprise Park on Wednesday, April 21. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna senior rescued after fracturing ankle while walking her 5 dogs

The woman called her grandson to come watch the dogs while she recieved medical assistance

Canadian driver Paul Tracy pulls out of the pits during the morning session at the Molson Indy in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, July 26, 2003 (CP/Richard Lam)
Vancouver is considering hosting a Formula E race using electric cars

The race would be part of a three-day event focused on climate and sustainability

(Pixabay)
Kelowna man facing charges for bike theft

The Kelowna man allegedly stole an e-bike from the 2200-block of Harvey Avenue

Jessica Lynn Pihl
Woman believed to be in North Okanagan wanted by police

RCMP seek public’s help locating 37-year-old

Chart from the April 20 B.C. budget shows sharp dip in real estate sales early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the even steeper climb since late 2020. (B.C. government)
Hot B.C. housing market drives property transfer tax gains

B.C. budget boosts tobacco, sweet drinks, carbon taxes

A vineyard wind machine caught fire in the early morning hours in Osoyoos Wednesday. (Osoyoos Fire Department Ryan McCaskill photo)
Flames from machine fire cast glow across Osoyoos Lake

A vineyard wind machine was engulfed in flames in the early morning hours Wednesday

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read