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

It’s crucial to follow provincial health guideliens to stop further spread of the virus, according to the Physicans of Golden. (File photo)
Positive COVID cases confirmed in Golden

The exposure occured at the Golden arena through one of the hockey cohorts.

After nearly 20 years, the Golden and Area A Community Forestry Team is trying to bring a community forest to the Golden area. (File photo)
Bringing a community forest to Golden

There’s been a desire to bring a community forest to the area for over a decade

Concerns over the water in Nicholson have been raised since 2005. Residents continue to reject solutions from the CSRD. (Cranbrook Townsman file)
Nicholson residents reject community water system

The results of the one-year water monitoring program have been released.

Grizzly.
Morning Start: Humans might be able to hibernate like bears

Your morning start for Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
104 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

IH is reporting the new numbers since Friday, Nov. 20

The Animal Food Bank is asking for donations as the pandemic continues and the holidays approach. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Okanagan Animal Food Bank in need of donations as pandemic continues

The Animal Food Bank provides food for any domestic pet in need

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

There are numerous ways the municipality can use the money, granted by the province. Black Press file photo.
Town of Princeton gets $1 million in COVID relief

Funds to offset affects of pandemic on municipal revenues and operations

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

Representatives of Vernon Rotary Clubs, starting left: Angela Yablonski (Vernon Rotary), Dustin Stadnyk (Kalamalka Rotary), and Michael Wardlow (Silver Star Rotary) present the proceeds from fall fundraising to Anna Dawyd and Laurie Postill (Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail) to help create the Northern Gateway to Okanagan Rail Trail. (Contributed)
Rail Trail boosted by North Okanagan Rotary Clubs

More than $7,400 raised to develop gateway at Kilometre Zero

A colourful inflatable igloo is a new addition to Vernon Winter Carnival 2021, if the multi-day event can proceed amid health regulations. (Vernon Winter Carnival photo)
Vernon Winter Carnival still hoping to light up 2021 amid COVID-19

Event gets support from city in attempts to continue while navigating health regulations

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

McDonald’s at 155 Hollywood Road N in Kelowna. (Contributed)
Kelowna McDonald’s reopens after closure due to COVID-19 exposure

The restaurant shut down on Monday for a thorough cleaning and sanitization after a staff member tested positive for the virus

Most Read