B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong wears resoled shoes for budget
Minister says he'll wear resoled shoes as he unveils the budget Tuesday as symbol of current economy
Finance Minister Mike de Jong says he will wear resoled shoes on Tuesday as he unveils the budget to signal British Columbia's solid financial strength despite some wear and tear.
De Jong met with reporters for a photo-op on Monday at Olde Towne Repair Shop in Victoria, paying $60 to get his old black shoes resoled and polished.
The minister said getting the shoes resoled and refurbished was an indication of where the province is economically, and they felt pretty balanced to him.
"They're good shoes. I've walked a lot of miles in these shoes and they've performed well. Our economy has performed well, but we're still tightening our belt and we're not quite at a point yet — not that I think we ever can be — not to practice disciplined spending."
He said he would be projecting balanced budgets with some modest surpluses for the next three years, but like his old but renewed shoes, he would continue to hold the line on government spending during tough economic times.
"We've got to be careful going forward. There are good days ahead, the economy looks promising, growth looks promising ... but British Columbians expect the government to be cautious going forward."
Contingency for BCTF negotiations
The minister said there was no completed assessment relating to labour negotiations and litigation with the B.C. Teachers' Federation, but there would be a larger than usual contingency plan to reflect the ongoing negotiations.
"We have set out a mandate for negotiations that can be accommodated within the fiscal plan and if something happens that requires going beyond that mandate, there are really only two ways, within the context of a balanced budget to accommodate that.
"One is to ask the taxpayers for more money, and we're not prepared to do that. The second is that it comes from somewhere else in the budget and it's something we're also hesitant to pursue."
The provincial government is appealing a B.C. Supreme Court order to pay the BCTF $2 million in damages for stripping teachers of their collective bargaining rights in 2002.
Bargaining between the government and the BCTF resumed last week in the first meeting between the two sides since the government announced its appeal of the unprecedented ruling.
LNG details expected
The minister also said Monday the budget would include details on the tax structure and regulatory regime relating to plans to exploit the province's liquefied natural gas reserves.
"The technical work around converting that to legislation is ongoing and we anticipate introducing that in the fall session, but I will have something to say about the taxation regime for liquefied natural gas."
Premier Christy Clark says LNG development represents a trillion-dollar economic opportunity for B.C. that could create up to 100,000 jobs.
Last year, she outlined plans for a fund that she predicted would build enough resource revenues to pay off B.C.'s debt, currently hovering at $60 billion and rising.
In terms of other tax regimes, de Jong said there will not be a lot of tax changes to come in the budget — only a couple of minor alterations.
"We're going to have to keep tracking expenditures very, very closely, so don't look for a huge lot in the way of spending announcements or a lot in the way of tax changes."
While getting his shoes resoled, de Jong also had new holes punched into one of his belts to symbolize what he says is ongoing belt tightening by the Liberal government.
With files from CBC's Stephen Smart