Economic growth is forecast to drop to 0.4 per cent in 2023, but the government says it won't respond to uncertainty with cuts or reduced services
VICTORIA — Deficits are in the forecast for British Columbia’s budget, but that’s not stopping the New Democrat government from spending billions on health, housing and families.
Finance Minister Katrine Conroy said the government plans to invest in people during uncertain times, despite a deficit projection of $4.2 billion in 2023-2024, and $11 billion over three years.
“When times are tough, that’s exactly when you need someone in your corner,” she said in her budget speech to the legislature Tuesday.
The projected deficits follow an unexpected surplus in 2022-2023. The windfall, originally forecast at almost $6 billion, has been pared back to $3.6 billion after Premier David Eby’s government spent much of it on affordability, infrastructure and public safety initiatives.
Conroy defended the government’s plan to post consecutive deficits, saying B.C.’s economy is strong, and the government must help people.
“We’ve proven during the pandemic that we can incur deficits by supporting people,” she said in a news conference. “It’s just not the right time to start making cuts. It’s not the right time to start asking people to pay out of their own pockets for services they expect to get.”
B.C. Business Council spokesman Ken Peacock said the government’s budget appears to be written with a “scatter gun.”
He said the council doesn’t support the large deficits, saying they cause inflation and crowd out investment.
“They are spending right across the board,” he said. “It’s just too loose.”
Economic growth in B.C. is forecast to slow from 2.8 per cent in 2022 to 0.4 per cent this year, before rising to 1.5 per cent in 2024.
B.C.’s total debt is forecast to increase to 107.9 billion next year from $93.4 billion this year.