Province predicts bigger deficit

NDP lays blame on B.C. Liberal fiscal mismanagement

In its second quarterly report, the B.C. Liberal government released its projected deficit for 2012/13 at $1.47 billion, a $328-million increase from the first quarterly report (FQR) projection.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says the delay in the sale completion of the Little Mountain site in Vancouver (more than 15 acres near Queen Elizabeth Park) is to blame for the biggest shortfall in revenue.

The sale agreement can’t close until the rezoning is completed, so funds that were expected for 2012/13 now won’t come through until the 2013/14 fiscal year, she notes.

Decreased property tax and property transfer tax revenues, and a decline in coal prices will also contribute to leave overall revenue down $202 million from the expectations in the FQR.

Former NDP leader Carole James, who still has a seat in legislature, says the release of the quarterly economic update shows the Liberals “continue to mismanage” the province’s finances.

“They’re spending a million and a half dollars on party planning for Family Day; meanwhile, they plan to make reckless cuts to necessary programs and services and sell off valuable public assets to try to give the illusion that they are fiscally responsible.”

However, Barnett notes the amount of land preserved in protected areas and parks is about 14 per cent (almost 35 million acres).

“Crown land is sold every day … for investments and other opportunities. It goes through a huge public process; it goes through years and years of review.

“And, governments don’t have that many ways to generate revenue, other than taxation.”

Government gets no revenue generation or taxes from Crown land, she notes.

Barnett explains that looking at selling off property from time to time can bring additional revenue beyond the sale dollars, such as property taxes and corporate taxes from a new business on the site, as well as an economic boost and even social benefits to the area.

“You’re then helping taxpayers in the way that the private sector is paying the bills.”

The province is reinvesting all of the net proceeds from the sale of the Little Mountain property directly into BC Housing, she adds.

The site has an older, existing housing project, Barnett notes, which is being rebuilt into a mix of subsidized and market housing, along with community facilities and other neighbourhood amenities.

“I don’t believe in selling the country off, but we do have to be realistic.”

Barnett notes the government also buys private properties to turn them into Crown land – when it builds a hospital or a Service BC building.

However, James says the B.C. Liberal’s pre-election promise to balance the budget is “bound to fall flat with British Columbians who have heard similar claims before.”

Meanwhile, Barnett insists her government is maintaining its promise the budget will be balanced, and education and health care budgets will not be cut in the process.

The government’s 2012/13 second quarterly report is available online at www.gov.bc.ca/fin.