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

Voters in Saanich North and the Islands, here lining up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on the first day of advanced voting, are among the provincial leaders in getting in their votes early, with some 20 per cent (10,174) of eligible voters have already cast their ballots. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

The M’akola Housing Society is looking to build two new residences in Sooke to help provide affordable accommodation for local Indigenous people. The projects were granted nearly $1.1 million toward their construction through the Regional Housing Trust Fund. (Photo courtesy M’Akola Housing Society)
Regional Housing First Program strikes another chord in Greater Victoria

Affordable housing partnership grants will help house over 100 people on income assistance

Plastic Ocean by Oak Bay resident Gabriela Hirt is in the Federation of Canadian Artist’s “Crisis” exhibition on now in Vancouver. (Gabriela Hirt/cropped to fit)
Oak Bay artist wins juried show in Vancouver

Pair of Oak Bay artists part of ‘Crisis’ exhibition

Online reservation service, First Table, allows Victoria diners to have dinner at half-price if they’re willing to be flexible about when they go. (Black Press Media file photo)
New reservation service allows Victoria residents to dine out at half price

First Table gives Victoria diners 50 per cent off when they book tables during off-peak hours

Kwick’kanum (Eric Pelkey), a hereditary chief of the Tsawout Nation, addressed the crowd that gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway reopens after rally supporting Mi’kmaq fishing rights

Supporters call on government to recognize Indigenous treaty rights

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

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 Oct. 20

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

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Parksville’s Jared Huggan won $75,000 playing BC/49. (BCLC/Photo submitted)
Vancouver Island man $75K richer after purchasing winning lottery ticket at Nanaimo Walmart

Parksville’s Huggan plans to purchase electric bike for partner

Most Read