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Finance Minister says B.C. had a $301-million surplus budget last fiscal year

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VICTORIA B.C. – B.C. Finance Minister Carole James has released Public Accounts 2017-18, which shows that the provincial government had a budget surplus last fiscal year, and also announced that the government is taking steps to address a past audit qualification on BC Hydro’s regulatory deferral accounts.

According to the audited financial statements released today, B.C. had an operating surplus of $301 million, which is $55 million higher than the surplus forecast in the Budget 2017 Update last fall, with provincial revenue higher than the previous year by $571 million. The increase in revenue was mostly due to increased federal transfers resulting from revised population estimates and higher tax revenue related to economic growth over the year.

The government increased spending on programs and services by almost $3 billion compared to the previous year, with new spending in health care, education, housing and social services, and significant spending in B.C.’s natural resource sector, in response to the 2017 wildfire season. Last year also saw a $918 million net decrease in overall provincial debt, compared to March 31, 2017.

“Our government has been working hard throughout our first year in office to clean up the problems we inherited while delivering on our commitment to make life better for people,” James said. “Despite historic losses at ICBC and a $950-million adjustment to address the Auditor General’s concerns about the former government’s approach to rate regulation, we reduced our debt and achieved a truly balanced budget.”

The most substantial change versus projections in the 2017 Budget Update is a decrease of $1.9 billion in the combined operating results of commercial Crown corporations. This drop was primarily due to the record loss of $1.3 billion at ICBC last fiscal year, as well as a $950 million adjustment to respond to an audit recommendation relating to BC Hydro’s use of regulatory accounts within the 2016-17 Public Accounts.

The provincial fiscal outlook is for continued and stable economic growth. Preliminary data shows B.C.’s real gross domestic product grew by an estimated 3.9 percent in 2017 – the second highest among provinces while the government said that private sector economic forecasters expect B.C. to be among the top provincial economic performers over this current fiscal plan.

At 15.6 percent, the Finance Ministry added that B.C. continues to have one of the lowest taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratios in the country – the lowest it has been in four years – as well as a taxpayer-supported debt-to-revenue ratio of 82.5 percent.

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