A boastful economy
B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong says his province may be the only in Canada to post a balanced budget this year, with Quebec being a possible exception. He also declares B.C. the sole member of the "lonely triple hearts club" due to its AAA credit rating (Saskatchewan also has a AAA rating but Mr. de Jong notes that province is currently on a negative watch). The surplus is expected to steadily increase over the next few years.
But the figure that may really set B.C. above the pack is the province's projected GDP growth, which, at 2.4 per cent for 2016, is well above most of the rest of the country.
Increasing health-care costs – and an increase to premiums
The province is hiking health-care premium rates for hundreds of thousands of British Columbians, with an adult who is paying the maximum fee paying an extra $3 per month, while exempting children and expanding who can qualify for discounts or complete exemptions.
The provincial Health Ministry remains the single-largest item in the B.C. budget, projected to top $19-billion in the next several years.
Luxury homes, foreign owners
The budget includes several steps to address increasing housing costs, from increasing taxes for purchases of higher-end homes above $2-million while exempting newly built homes below $750,000 from the property transfer tax. At the same time, the province will track the citizenship of anyone buying property and the new home tax break won't apply for foreigners. Still, the property transfer tax will continue to bring in more than $1-billion a year.
Falling energy prices, but still no LNG
The latest budget does not record any revenues from a liquefied natural gas industry, acknowledging progress has been slower than hoped, in part due to global energy prices. Natural gas revenues are expected to steadily decline in coming years, as are revenues from drilling, mining and other resource industries.