The Honourable Carole Taylor’s Slide Presentation
at the Media Lockup, Budget Day,
February 21, 2006

  1. The new provincial budget is another step forward for the people of British Columbia, with new funding focused in key areas.

  1. New funding for children provides more social workers and other front-line staff, improves supports for families at risk, and increases funding for public education to its highest level in provincial history.

  1. The new funding will also improve services for children with special needs and support for children in low-income families.

  1. These new investments are affordable because British Columbians have built a strong economy – and that gives us choices.

  1. Economic growth is forecast to stay strong, but moderate in the next few years.

  1. Our economy is expected to grow faster than the Canadian average.

  1. Our unemployment rate is now so low that – instead of people of looking for jobs, we are hearing more and more about jobs looking for people.

  1. We must act now to ensure we have enough skilled workers – and to ensure that our tax system is fair and competitive — so we can keep attracting people and business to our province.

  1. Balanced Budget 2006 invests in a range of initiatives to help more people reach their potential – in traditional industries as well as new and emerging sectors of the B.C. economy.

  1. It includes more support for apprenticeships and a new tax credit program to encourage industry to be part of the solution that meets B.C.’s skills training needs.

  1. On the tax front, the budget provides a range of measures to improve fairness and competitiveness – starting with tax relief for homeowners.

  1. These improvements help address the challenges that come with soaring real estate values — especially for families and seniors on fixed incomes.

  1. The budget also provides a range of tax improvements for individuals, families and businesses. Combined with changes to the Home Owner Grant, these tax measures will save British Columbians $733 million over four years. About two thirds of the benefits will go to individuals and families.

  1. A fair and competitive tax system will support continued growth. But growth also demands new investments in infrastructure.

  1. The budget makes significant investments in schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure – which will have an impact on our debt.

  1. However, the government is meeting its commitment to ensure that debt remains affordable.

  1. Taxpayer-supported debt to GDP – a key measure of debt affordability – is forecast to continue declining in the years ahead, supported by continuing strong economic growth.

  1. Total debt to GDP – which includes the debt of commercial Crown corporations such as BC Hydro – is also forecast to continue declining.

  1. Managing debt is part of prudent fiscal management. So is planning for major risks – things the government cannot control that may affect the province’s economic and fiscal position over the next several years.

  1. For example, B.C. gets a lot of revenue from resources such as natural gas, but prices can fluctuate month to month. During 2005, higher-than-expected natural gas prices provided extra revenues — but this revenue source remains volatile.

  1. Those high prices are not expected to last indefinitely. The current three-year fiscal plan takes that into account.

  1. The fiscal plan also provides forecast allowances to protect the fiscal plan by absorbing the impact of any unexpected events. In addition, B.C. is projecting surpluses for the next three years.

  1. The single largest commitment in the budget is the up to $6 billion for wage and benefit improvements for 300,000 public sector workers – people who deliver the services we use every day, from health care and education to highways and provincial parks. The total amount includes a $1 billion incentive to encourage early settlements – part of a creative new approach to bargaining.

  1. Measures in the budget are also consistent with the recommendations government heard from British Columbians during its yearly pre-budget consultations.

  1. To recap: The budget provides new funding for children, for skills training, to reduce taxes for homeowners and businesses – and allows for raises for public sector workers. It is one more step forward for the people of British Columbia.