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.

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

Just Posted

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

Nelson skateboarders charged with assaulting Trail police officer

Incident happened at the skate park in Trail

RDCK closes all indoor recreational facilities until at least August 18

The district said closures are necessary to meet financial plan and to deliver safe programming

Flooding: Why the RDCK ordered hundreds of properties evacuated

All evacuation orders have now been rescinded

Broadwater Road residents allowed to return home after evacuation order

Area near Castlegar evacuated due to flooding risk

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

How to safely drink water in areas impacted by flooding

Quality and safety of drinking water can be affected during and after floods

Most Read