British Columbia

B.C. NDP to deliver budget update Monday

Following a throne speech from Friday, which promised to make the province more affordable for residents, Finance Minister Carole James will deliver her party's first budget today, which is only being described as a financial update.

The party's full financial plan won't come until February

The Legislature Chamber in Victoria. On Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, Finance Minister Carole James will present a budget update. A full budget is not expected until February. (BCLegislature/Twitter)

British Columbia's NDP government is expected to offer its first budget after delivering a throne speech Friday that promised to make B.C. more affordable for residents.

But experts say they expect the financial update will be little more than an appetizer ahead of a more comprehensive budget slated for early next year.

David Moscrop, a political scientist at Simon Fraser University, said it is likely a smart move for the NDP's fledgling minority government to hold back on all but its most pressing commitments.

Moscrop said the New Democrats have barely formed a government and people would likely prefer they take some time to check the books before opening the spending taps.

Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James pose for a photo in the B.C. Legislature on June 30, 2017. (Carole James/Twitter)

Hamish Telford, a political scientist with the University of the Fraser Valley, says finance ministers typically work six to eight months on a budget. Finance Minister Carole James has had two months.

"So really I think we're only going to see tweaking from the budget that was introduced in February," Telford said.

At the time, the Liberal government tabled a budget that predicted a $1.5 billion surplus for 2016-2017. In June, a fiscal update said the predicted surplus was far higher, at $2.8 billion.

The spring election interrupted the passing of the February budget. That means the government only has a financial plan until the end of September to spend money.

"We don't have a budget for the fiscal year," said Telford. "So it is essential for the new government to provide this revised budget and get it through the legislature by the end of the month so the government can keep functioning."

James, who is also the government's deputy premier, isn't revealing any concrete details about what the update will include, but she said the real budget will come in February.

Friday's throne speech said the fall will see consultation begin for many of the government's bigger-ticket promises, such as a boost to minimum wage, the creation of a poverty reduction plan and more investment in public transit and health-care infrastructure.

with files from Canadian Press and Richard Zussman.

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