British Columbia

B.C. releases audited financial numbers for 2016-2017, records $2.7 billion surplus

B.C.'s NDP Government releases audited public accounts for 2016-2017 that largely reflect unaudited numbers released by the former Liberal Government

The province's GDP grew by an estimated 3.7 per cent

The B.C. government ended the last fiscal year with a surplus of $2.7 billion, largely in line with an unaudited financial picture released about two months ago by the province's former B.C. Liberal government.

Finance Minister Carole James released the 2016-17 public accounts, which also show a $3.4 billion increase over forecasted revenue, and spending that was $1.3 billion higher than the budget had outlined. James says she is pleased with B.C.'s strong economic position. 

The public accounts also show a $591 million increase in overall debt. Tax revenue was $2.8 billion higher than expected with $1.5 billion more than budgeted coming from personal income taxes. 

James says she will release a budget "update" on September 11, with the annual budget still scheduled for next February. 

"I will bring forward a balanced budget.  That's part of my mandate letter and it will be part of the budget that will come forward in September," said James. "The forecast is for continued economic growth." 

The Liberals pegged the surplus at $2.8 billion shortly before they were defeated in the legislature on a confidence vote, leading to the NDP forming a minority government.

Promise of new spending

When asked about a plan for the financially-troubled ICBC, James called the situation very alarming.

"The kinds of challenges that ICBC's facing are not going to help keep those rates low," said James. She added that Attorney General David Eby would likely have more details at some point in the next two weeks. 

James also repeated an intention to invest in sustainable economic growth and talked about investment in social programs like housing and education. 

"It's really tough for people out there to see the benefit of a surplus this size when they're struggling day to day to manage, when you take a look at the poverty rates in our province," she said.

In response,  Liberal finance critic Shirley Bond said the NDP hasn't released details on the financial impact of its spending promises.

"The unanswered question is whether the NDP have a plan on how to keep B.C.'s economy growing to ensure investments can continue to be made," she said in a news release.

"This should not be a one-time spending spree that government can never afford again. We need to see a plan to sustain revenues."

With files from The Canadian Press