B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong introduces the government's 2013 June Budget Update.

B.C. Budget: Province aims to hold line on union wage demands

Government revenues have fallen $900 million short of February's budget projections, finance minister Mike de Jong revealed.

VICTORIA – Government revenues have fallen $900 million short of February’s budget projections, and teachers and other government workers can expect no new money for wages, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Thursday.

Bright spots for the B.C. economy include an expected recovery in natural gas prices from historic lows, and $500 million in savings on government operations, de Jong said in a post-election budget update.

B.C. is continuing an effective freeze on public sector wage growth that began in 2010. Since the government’s “cooperative gains” mandate in 2012, nearly three quarters of union members have signed contracts with average pay increases of one to two per cent, financed through savings in other areas of operations. Most are two-year deals, with some halfway through.

The projected surplus for this year is trimmed from $197 million in February to $153 million, and de Jong had to trim contingency funds to reach that.

Tax hikes are unchanged from February, including a two-year increase for personal income over $150,000 and a tobacco tax increase set for October.

The budget calls for $30 million in spending cuts this year, after last year’s reduction of $20 million in all ministries except health. The government’s “core review” of government operations is getting underway with a target of another $50 million in savings by the end of 2014, but no program targets are identified in the budget update.

The price for natural gas, the key commodity for the government’s debt reduction plan, is forecast to rise from $2.25 per gigajoule this year to $2.51 and $2.89 in the next two years. Exports of liquefied natural gas to Asia, where prices are currently far higher, can’t begin until well after 2015.

Lumber prices are forecast to decline, from a peak of US $348 per 1,000 board feet this year to $308 in 2014 and $300 in 2015.

De Jong said the government’s asset sales plan is about $8 million ahead of projections, with about half of the properties, bonds and other financial holdings sold or in negotiations to sell. The goal is to raise $475 million for next year’s budget.

Properties already sold include land on Tranquille Road in Kamloops, a school board office in Kelowna, surplus school land in Delta, vacant lots in Burnaby, Surrey and near Victoria General Hospital and former school sites in Surrey and North Vancouver.

Properties going on the market include a former school board office in Surrey, a vacant site north of Kelowna once planned for a provincial prison, former school sites in Central Saanich, Sidney and north central Vancouver Island and land for LNG development in Kitimat.

 

Just Posted

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Coastal GasLink stops work to investigate archaeological find

OGC archaeologists are en route to the Houston-area site where Unist’ot’en report finding stone tools

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Lego League provincial champions

Smithers’ Marley and Amelie are B.C. Lego League champions, and are fundraising to compete in Texas.

TSKLH Nation sues Province over Brucejack mine revenue sharing

The Tsetsaut/Skii km Lax Ha seeks to assert rights and title in the area around Pretivm gold mine.

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

Ammonia leak shuts down curling club in Nelson

It’s not yet clear when the leak was detected

Pavelski’s 31st goal helps Sharks top Canucks 3-2

Vancouver one point out of second NHL wild-card spot

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Most Read