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

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

Just Posted

James Taylor, a Saanich resident and member of the Curve Lake First Nation, walked all over Greater Victoria on May 5 in honour of Red Dress Day and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Devon Bidal/News staff)
Indigenous man walks Greater Victoria to honour missing and murdered women and girls

James Taylor, of the Curve Lake First Nation, marks Red Dress Day with healing walk, songs

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested for allegedly spitting, yelling anti-Asian racial slurs at a mother and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

Victoria police is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying this suspect after they allegedly robbed a Douglas Street bank on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek identity of suspect who alllegedly robbed Victoria bank

Officers were called to a bank in the 1000-block of Douglas Street just after 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday

This sign, visible from Highway 17 and suggesting dissatisfaction with the public health measures responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, disappeared from this location after having stood on a private North Saanich property for several days. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sign in North Saanich warning of police state gone

The sign stood for several days on a private property and was visible from Highway 17

Victoria police said Wednesday that they continue to look for Belinda Ann Cameron, who was last seen on May 5, 2005. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police still looking for Belinda Cameron who was last seen 16 years ago

Cameron was reported missing on June 4, 2005, and her case is deemed suspicious

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The courthouse in Nanaimo, B.C. (News Bulletin file)
Island man sentenced in Nanaimo after causing a dog unnecessary pain and suffering

Kiefer Tyson Giroux, 26, of Nanoose Bay, given six-month sentence

Following a one-year pause due to the pandemic, the Snowbirds were back in the skies over the Comox Valley Wednesday (May 5) morning. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Video: Snowbirds hold first training session in Comox Valley in more than 2 years

The team will conduct their training from May 4 to 26 in the area

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

Most Read