B.C.’s budget 2015: Four things to know

Finance minister Mike de Jong presenting the 2015 budget

B.C. posts an unexpectedly large surplus and other highlights from budget 2015

The numbers
B.C. is in the black for the third year in a row. Expect a whopping $879-million surplus for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and moderately smaller $284-million surplus for the year after. Both numbers surpass budget projections from earlier this year, when the government expected a $444-million surplus.

Total spending for this fiscal year is expected to clock in at $45.8 billion, with revenues at $46.3 billion ($1 billion higher than the government’s November estimates).  

B.C. isn’t expected to make much headway on its debt, which is expected to grow to $70 billion by 2017-2018. Despite three more years of (expected) surplus, the province’s debt, which stood at $45 billion in 2011 when Premier Christy Clark assumed office, is expected to grow by $4.5 billion. That’s a result of increased capital spending on bridges, hospitals on big projects. The Vancouver Board of Trade, however, awarded the budget an A+ for debt management (i.e. reducing the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio).

Tax credits for industry
Vancouver’s video-game makers can breath a little easier: the budget extends a 17.5 per cent tax credit on salaries until 2018

The budget also extended a contentious $10 million tax credit for the mining sector, which it introduced in the hopes of stimulating exploration. But that $10 million credit, says Lindsey Tedd, an associate professor at University of Victoria specializing in tax policy, is no more than a “tax advantage for high income individuals with no discernible economic benefit.” 

While B.C. has been largely buffered from falling oil prices that have gutted government revenues in Alberta and Saskatchewan—and to a lesser degree, Ottawa—B.C. won’t emerge from the oil rut unscathed. Natural gas royalties are expected to drop by 36.5 per cent in 2015-16, and revenues from a future LNG industry are conspicuously absent.