Public Accounts confirm investing in people pays dividends: NDP

Finance Minister Carole James

THE B.C. government is reporting higher income and stronger economic growth in 2018-19 that is helping make life more affordable, improving the services people count on and supporting a strong economy in British Columbia.

“For years, the old government chose to work for the few at the top,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “We’re making different choices that are making life better for people and putting B.C. on strong fiscal footing. Our plan to put people first and build a brighter future is working. We’re an economic leader this year, with the strongest employment growth and among the top in wage growth in the country, boosting families’ incomes and paying dividends to the people of B.C.”

According to James, Budget 2018 put B.C. on a different path. It made a record $1-billion investment in a made-in-B.C. child care plan that is making quality, affordable child care available to tens of thousands of families. To tackle the housing crisis, Budget 2018 invested $7 billion in affordable housing – the biggest housing investment in B.C.’s history – and introduced a 30-point plan to build affordable homes and help moderate the real estate market.

The release of Public Accounts 2018-19 shows that government’s plan is yielding positive fiscal results. Improved economic growth, wage growth and 2017 income tax returns led to a $2.9-billion increase in revenue, allowing government to re-invest in people and the services they need, like health care and education. The year ended with an operating surplus of $1.5 billion, placing B.C. in a stable position amidst signs of global economic uncertainty.

“Unlike the previous government, which ran large surpluses while people struggled to make ends meet, we put these additional resources to work by investing in our province’s greatest resource – our people,” said James. “We’ve put money back into people’s pockets by eliminating unfair MSP premiums, removing interest on student loans and introducing the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit, to name a few initiatives. Together, these measures amount to the biggest middle-class tax cut in a generation.”

Government has chosen to confront tough challenges head on, rather than ignore issues like fiscal deterioration at ICBC and misuse of rate-regulated accounting at BC Hydro. Because of government’s actions, BC Hydro is on a more sustainable path and ICBC’s finances are beginning to benefit from product reform. Tackling the problems left behind at ICBC remains a government priority.

After years of skyrocketing real estate prices, where the benchmark price for single family homes spiked 75% in Metro Vancouver in five years, B.C.’s 30-point housing plan is helping moderate the market, contributing to a decline in property transfer tax revenues.

“A housing market and economy driven by speculative investment and money laundering isn’t good for people,” said James. “The previous government put maximizing property transfer tax revenue first, while owning and renting a home became further out of reach for too many people. We’re working to build a sustainable economy that works for people in the long run. We don’t believe in short-term gains at the expense of future generations. I’ll be watching housing trends closely and I’m pleased by the moderation we’re seeing in the market so far.”

At 14.5%, British Columbia now has the lowest taxpayer-supported debt-to-gross domestic product ratios in a decade, which continues to contribute to B.C. being the only province with an “AAA” credit rating from the major international credit rating agencies.