Finance Minister Colin Hansen said today the government's pre-election budget is all about stability, jobs and confidence at a time of economic turmoil - announcing additional healthcare, education and social services spending. But it's also about two year $740 million deficit, public sector wage freezes and future cutbacks, as well as hidden Vancouver 2010 Olympic security costs.
Addressing reporters and special interest groups, Minister Hansen said the government has projected British Columbia's economy will shrink by 0.9 percent in 2009 - a forecast he called "prudent." And it's predicting an economic turnaround in 2010, returning the province to balance budgets.
In the meantime, though, the Campbell administration will make $297 million in administrative spending cuts by fiscal 2009/10. And it will freeze unionized public sector salaries.
According to the budget, there's "no funding included in the fiscal plan for the next round of public sector wage negotiations" - which will get underway before the end of fiscal 2009/10. And the government will be spending $75 million over the next two years as part of a public service transformation fund to find ways of delivering "quality services with fewer staff."
Meanwhile, reporters were surprised at what wasn't in the budget - few new pre-election goodies and no specifics on how much the government will be spending to cover its portion of Olympic security costs. This, despite the fact that one-time payment will be made to the federal government before the end of the present fiscal year.
Minister Hansen said the budget does account for those costs, with a specific number being made available next week. But he said, "People are looking for a number that's much, much larger than our obligations amount to."