British Columbia

B.C. finance minister hints at tax relief on eve of 2017 budget

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong offered no new clues about what the government will announce in Tuesday's pre-election provincial budget, but suggested once again that new tax cuts will be on the table.

MSP reforms, Hydro freeze, small business relief all possibilities that could be announced on Tuesday

Finance Minister Mike de Jong puts on his resoled shoes at a pre-budget event in Victoria, B.C., on Feb. 20, 2017. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong offered no new clues about what the government will announce in Tuesday's pre-election provincial budget, but suggested once again that new tax cuts will be on the table. 

"You're going to see two themes emerge pretty clearly out of the budget," he said to reporters Monday. 

"On the one hand, capitalizing on our fiscal strengths, we are going to make some additional investments we think are warranted and where it's required ... and where we can, we'd like to leave a little more money in the pockets of British Columbians and that speaks to issues of taxation."

The province forecasted a $2.24 billion surplus in November, which would be a fifth straight balanced budget. 

Since then, Premier Christy Clark has promised revamping MSP premiums, and in the past week, the government has implied tax relief is coming, while also making smaller pre-budget funding announcements

But aside from saying, "we are trying to ensure the benefits of our strong economy … are shared by the widest possible group," de Jong was mum on whether those measures would include broad tax cuts, MSP reforms or freezes to ICBC and BC Hydro rates.

"I'm not going to pre-empt what may or may not be in the budget."

Status quo on shoe soling tradition

De Jong's comments came at the annual pre-budget shoe event, a staple among finance ministers in Canada.

While many ministers use the event to unveil a new pair of shoes that broadly symbolize a budget's theme, de Jong opted for a simple resoling of his black, Bostonian dress shoes at a local cobbler.

"I don't overthink these things. I like these shoes," he said. "They're comfortable … these have served me well, there's no real message, except I like them, they're comfortable, and Mike is a great cobbler."

But he did point to cobbler Mike Waterman, owner of Olde Towne Shoe Repair, as someone who would likely benefit from the budget.  

"Increasingly when I think of small business, I think of Mike's shop ... we're going to try and ensure that small business also benefits from the strength of our economy."

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