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Finance Minister Elizabeth Cull delivers the budget speech in the Legislature in Victoria in 1996.

John McKay/CP/John McKay/CP

15 YEARS AGO… (June 26 - July 2, 1996)

NDP budget projections off by $334-million

Provincial budget projections for the fiscal year that ended March 31 missed the mark by $334-million, Finance Minister Andrew Petter revealed this week.

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Two months after the NDP tabled pre-election figures showing the province balanced its books last year, Mr. Petter said that B.C. actually ran a $200-million deficit in fiscal 1995-96. When the 1995-96 budget was introduced in May, 1995, former finance minister Elizabeth Cull forecast a $114-million surplus.

This spring, just hours before Premier Glen Clark's April 30 election call, Ms. Cull introduced a "second consecutive balanced budget," forecasting a $25-million surplus in 1996-97.

Campaigning on his party's strong fiscal performance, Mr. Clark's NDP went on to claim a narrow election victory over the B.C. Liberals.

Liberal leader Gordon Campbell said on Saturday the NDP's fiscal flip-flop shows that "they are either exceptionally incompetent or they misled the House."

Mr. Petter blamed forestry revenues that came in $250 million below the government's $1.6-billion forecast for last year's shortfall.

Flash forward: A lawsuit launched by the citizens' group HELP BC accusing the NDP of fraud in the 1996 election was thrown out of court for lack of evidence in 2000.

25 YEARS AGO… (June 26 - July 2, 1986)

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Bourassa touts unity during Expo junket

Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa used a visit to the Expo '86 World Fair this week to promote national unity and push his initiative to make Quebec a full partner in the Canadian constitution.

During an hour-long meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Bourassa and B.C. Premier Bill Bennett discussed how ongoing Canada-U.S free-trade negotiations might set the stage for a future agreement on outstanding constitutional matters.

Quebec has so far refused to sign the 1981 constitutional agreement that ended British control over Canadian affairs and enshrined the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Bourassa said if all 10 provinces can agree on a formula to ratify a free trade agreement, the framework could be used to find a workable constitutional amending formula.

Mr. Bennett, who has announced that he will retire after the Social Credit leadership convention in late July, said he and Mr. Bourassa "understand each other's views" but "did not reach any conclusions."

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Mr. Bourassa said the fair's themes - transport and communications - are vital to Canadian unity.

Flash forward: Mr. Bourassa was a strong supporter of the Meech Lake Accord, a national unity agreement that was negotiated in 1987 and died in 1990 due to a lack of support from Newfoundland and Manitoba.

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