The B.C. government announced its third-consecutive balanced budget on Feb. 17, laying out capital project spending and other investments.
"The discipline we showed through the recession to bring the budget into balance has given us the flexibility to make modest, strategic investments that maintain public services like health care and education, as well as strengthen and encourage growth in key economic sectors," said Finance Minister Michael de Jong.
The BC Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association applauded the budget, saying it has strong provisions for building infrastructure needed to support and expand the economy.
"Budget 2015 will keep BC moving forward towards a solid economic future," said Jack Davidson, president of the association.
"Strategic investment in core infrastructure supports economic growth, jobs and an overall higher quality of life for all British Columbians. A strong economy enables government to deliver the important services we need and demand such as healthcare, education and security."
De Jong said the 2015 budget forecasts a surplus of $879 million in 2014-15. He expects a $284 million surplus in 2015-16, a $376 million surplus in 2016-17 and a $399 million surplus in 2017-18.
Budget 2015 will invest $10.7 billion in new capital projects over the coming three years.
- $2.1 billion in post-secondary education, skills and trades training capital spending, including: Emily Carr University of Art + Design Campus; replacement of trades buildings at Okanagan College; renewal and replacement of the trades facility at Camosun College; a new facility for the Vancouver Community College and British Columbia Institute of Technology for heavy-duty/commercial.
- $1.6 billion in K-12 education investments.
- $2.9 billion in transportation investments, including: Evergreen Line Rapid Transit, Coquitlam; Cariboo Connector; Hwy. 1: Mountain Hwy. Interchange, North Vancouver.
- $2.7 billion in health infrastructure, including: Children and Women’s Hospital – Phase 1 and 2, Vancouver; North Island Hospitals, Comox Valley and Campbell River; Interior Heart and Surgical Centre, Kelowna.
- The budget also included transitional incentives over three years to encourage the B.C. cement industry to adopt cleaner fuels and further lower emission intensity.
There are tax credits and $6.3 million in new base-budget funding to support B.C.’s mining industry and to continue improvements to permitting and regulatory oversight including increased mine inspections.
The budget also set out partnering with the marine shipping industry to re-establish the International Maritime Centre to help attract more shipping companies and their head offices to Vancouver.
The surpluses forecasted in each year of the fiscal plan will help keep taxpayer-supported debt affordable. Total taxpayer-supported debt will rise by $3.7 billion between 2014 and 2018, as operating surpluses and balance sheet management help offset taxpayer-supported capital spending.
Over the three-year plan, direct operating debt, which increased due to deficits during the global economic downturn, is forecast to decline by more than 50 per cent from $10.2 billion to $4.8 billion—the lowest level since 1991.
Government’s taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratio, a key measure of affordability, improves in each year of the plan.