B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

Budget surplus hits $2.24 billion, but B.C. braces for schools settlement

Finance minister Mike de Jong won't say how much of a hit is expected from teachers' court win

B.C.’s projected budget surplus has climbed further to an estimated $2.24 billion.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong released that number as part of a generally upbeat second quarter financial update Tuesday.

He cautioned B.C. is bracing for significantly higher education budget costs in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of the B.C. Teachers Federation on classroom size and composition requirements.

De Jong declined to provide an estimate.

“It would be presumptive on my part and the government’s part to lay out our figure or unilaterally state what we believe that figure will be,” he said.

“The fiscal plan is healthy and we are in a position to accommodate the results of the negotiation that is now underway.”

Asked if the improved budget could allow B.C. to further raise social assistance rates, de Jong said that will be a priority, but cautioned there’s no certainty a large government surplus will repeat each year.

“The landscape is littered with the carcasses of governments past and the deficits they incurred because assumptions were made that a present set of circumstances would repeat in perpetuity.”

He also noted that public sector workers will be receiving nearly one per cent more pay over and above their contractual wage increases under B.C.’s economic stability mandate dividend, because the province’s growth has exceeded benchmarks. The latest 0.35 per cent dividend, resulting from 3.3 per cent economic growth for B.C. in 2015, takes effect in February and is on top of a 0.45 per cent bump a year earlier.

B.C. has seen an increase of 71,400 jobs so far this year, up 3.1 per cent as of October.

De Jong was also asked to respond to the potential that U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s administration may start a trade war.

More protectionist policy from American leaders would also hurt the U.S. at a time when that country needs more B.C. lumber to accommodate growth projections, de Jong said.

No advertising campaign is contemplated at this time, he said, but he did not rule out strenuous lobbying by B.C.

“We are going to have to ramp up in a strategic way to ensure that Americans themselves understand there’s a price to be paid for protectionism and that it is not just a price you inflict upon others.”

He noted the U.S. forest industry has already fired the first shot against B.C. softwood lumber imports, with a petition that could lead to an initial ruling as early as spring.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

An Oak Bay Police officer handed out five tickets for “fail to obey stop sign” and two tickets for using a cell phone while driving, all within two hours at King George Terrace on Jan. 11. (Oak Bay Police Twitter)
Man confronts unmasked group at Oak Bay Marina

Oak Bay police issue plenty of tickets in short King George Terrace visit

A 45-metre tall call tower is proposed for Westhills Stadium. (Black Press Media file photo)
New cell tower proposed for Westhills Stadium in Langford

Tower will increase capacity in congested network: staff report

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Most Read