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MLA worried about provincial budget outlook

Province sees growing deficits and shrinking economy, Davies tells Chamber of Commerce audience
B.C. legislature building in downtown Victoria. TIMES COLONIST

Fort St. John businesses got a snapshot of this year’s provincial budget at a meeting with local MLA Dan Davies on Monday.

The budget forecasts a deficit of $4.2 billion, and $11 billion over three years. And while the deficits cover a range of new social programs, such as the $400 renters’ rebate, free contraception, new housing, and mental health and addiction beds, Davies says there’s not much emphasis on growing the economy.

“The front pocket is empty so they’re reaching into the back pocket,” Davies said after a lunch meeting with the Chamber of Commerce. “The only way they can support their budget is going into the taxpayer’s wallet.”

Davies raised his concerns that natural resource revenues are forecast to slide 21% to $4.7 billion this year, and by 34% to $4 billion by 2025-26.

Natural gas royalties are projected to drop 31% over the next three years, while forestry revenues are projected to plummet 54% this year alone, from $1.85 billion to $846 million.

The province needs to “snuggle up” to the resource sector in a hurry and not shut them down, Davies says.

“You can’t have a dying resource sector and ballooning fees and taxes to cover programming,” he said.

Davies says employer health tax will cost businesses $2.7 billion this year, while the carbon tax will cost consumers $2.8 billion.

“The NDP says, ‘we eliminated the health premiums’. They didn’t eliminate them; they moved them to businesses. They think businesses are all rich and millionaires,” he said.

Davies says B.C. has lost its competitiveness. By the time the budget cycle is done, the province will be more than $100 billion in debt, which he says the NDP has doubled in the last six years.

“We’re losing businesses and people that are going to Alberta,” Davies said. “Why would they stay? It’s cheaper to do business, there’s less taxes, and more opportunity.”

“For us in Northeast B.C., next to Alberta, that has a significant impact on us. It already is,” he said, adding his daughter was initially talking about moving to Vancouver after graduating high school, but that it might be Calgary now.

“It’s a shame our kids our grandkids are saying, ‘I want to stay in B.C. but it’s not affordable. I can go next door and live for significantly less,’” he said.

“There’s no growing the economy in the budget, in fact it’s shrinking it," he said. "That points to a lot of concern, big time.”

Read more: Deficits and government spending highlight the 2023 British Columbia budget

Read more: B.C. budget forecasts years of deficits, but spends big on health, housing, families

Read more: Inflation eats way into provincial budget

Read more: Budget braces for looming downturn

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