British Columbia government, facing defeat, unveils C$2.8 billion surplus

By Nicole Mordant

The much larger surplus in the Western Canadian province was driven by higher-than-expected economic growth, marked by strong employment, retail sales and housing starts, provincial finance minister Michael de Jong said.

British Columbia’s preliminary real 2016 GDP growth came in at 3.7 percent, ahead of a budgeted 2.4 percent, the highest among Canada’s provinces. British Columbia is Canada’s third most populous province.

The fiscal update is usually only released in July once the figures have been audited, leading government critics to accuse the Liberals of trying to burnish their credentials as they prepare to leave office.

“I thought it appropriate on the eve of the transfer of power to disclose to British Columbians the state of the books,” de Jong told reporters.

The Liberals are expected to be defeated on Thursday in a non-confidence vote brought by the left-leaning New Democrats and backed by the Green Party. The Liberals, in power for 16 years, lost their majority in a May election.

But with only one seat more than the Liberals in the legislative assembly, an NDP-Green government could become unworkable, resulting in a new election being called.

“It is encouraging to hear that B.C’s economy is doing well,” Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said. “However, releasing this information out of political calculation is inappropriate,” he said in a statement.

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