B.C. Finance Minister Carole James updates B.C.’s employment situation under COVID-19 restrictions, B.C. legislature, July 10, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. deficit forecast $12.8 billion after first three months of COVID-19

Taxes, resource revenues fell less than expected in pandemic

The impact of COVID-19 on the B.C. government’s finances has been as devastating as expected, but there have been signs of a stronger recovery in employment, real estate and retail sales.

Finance Minister Carole James released the province’s first quarter financial report Thursday (Sept. 10), projecting a $12.8 billion deficit for the fiscal year that ends in March 2021. That’s similar to the economic scenario released in July, based on the actual results for April, May and June.

The forecast went as high as $13.5 billion after the B.C. government authorized an additional $1 billion in borrowing to match new federal funds to B.C. and other provinces for transit, municipalities and other supports in the pandemic. The latest forecast includes a $1 billion contingency fund to reflect that, as the B.C. and federal governments finalize how the latest relief fund is allocated.

“Since the province’s July fiscal and economic scenario, we have seen stronger than expected consumer spending, housing activity and employment gains,” James said.

Since July, the province has seen better than expected employment gains, which slowed in the latest Statistics Canada report. B.C. Business Council chief economist Ken Peacock warned in his latest analysis that the job gains for August were less than June and July, indicating the “low-hanging fruit in terms of rehiring has been accomplished.”

RELATED: New B.C. jobs ‘won’t be enough’ when CERB ends

Much of B.C.’s unexpected revenue has come from property tax and property transfer tax revenues, real estate sales volumes recovering quickly and housing prices holding firm and rebounding by July.

James noted that B.C.’s economy depends on many factors outside its control, such as a potential second wave of COVID-19. That has prompted the province to boost health care spending by $1.6 billion for the current year, to add thousands of staff for senior care and double the capacity for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

RELATED: B.C. to expand COVID-19 testing, hospital capacity

Another big factor is the international economy, where B.C. is doing better than some other jurisdictions.

“In the April to June period, the Canadian economy saw the largest contraction on record,” James said. “Our neighbour to the east, Alberta, is forecasting a $24 billion deficit for this year. And the U.S. economy and the Eurozone saw their largest economic declines on record in this April to June period. Economic data suggest that the global economy could face its largest contraction ever.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

WATCH: Meet Bella, Cawston’s talking cat

Bella has achieved international recognition for her speaking skills

Keremeos, Oliver landfills receive upgrades

Used motor oil, oil filters and anti-freeze can now be disposed off at the landfills

EDITORIAL: A pandemic continues

Measures to control the spread of COVID-19 were introduced six months ago

Penticton Dragon Boat Festival marks what would have been 20th year

COVID-19 forced the festival to postpone until 2021

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Interior Health reports four new cases of COVID-19

First hospitalization since mid-August announced

Rail traffic starts moving after 60-car derailment near Hope

Clean up effort ongoing after 60 cars carrying potash crashed along a rail bridge

Spoon-wielding man draws police presence in Penticton

Police say no one was harmed during the incident

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

Jobs training, tax incentives for employers to hire staff and more

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

Most Read