Message from the Minister
In fiscal 2004/05, the Ministry of Finance continued its track record of leadership and achievement in financial management. The ministry played a central role in helping the government fulfill its commitments to restore sound fiscal management, balance the budget, and revitalize British Columbia's economy.
British Columbia is a leader in timely and transparent financial reporting. In 2004/05, the Ministry of Finance built on this success when British Columbia became the first province in Canada to introduce a balanced budget and fiscal plans prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) — the benchmark for accurate financial reporting in both the public and private sectors. British Columbia is the only province with legislation that requires the use of GAAP for estimates, budgets, quarterly reports and public accounts.
The ministry's success in restoring sound fiscal management was recognized by Standard and Poor's, Moody's Investor Service, and Dominion Bond Rating Service. Each of the three major credit rating agencies upgraded the Province's credit rating, citing British Columbia's consistent achievement of annual budget targets. They also cited B.C.'s solid economic performance, transparent budgeting and reporting practices, and low taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratio.
The Ministry of Finance continued to improve its operations and services, reduce and streamline regulatory requirements, and modernize key pieces of legislation to improve British Columbia's economic climate. These on-going efforts helped British Columbia achieve strong employment growth, a lower unemployment rate, and rising business confidence and investment. Statistics Canada's preliminary gross domestic product figures for 2004 show British Columbia led all other provinces in economic growth — the first time since 1987 that B.C. finished in first place.
In 2004/05, the ministry achieved its three-year deregulation target through amendments to the Financial Institutions Act, the Credit Union Incorporation Act, and related regulations. These amendments eliminated unnecessary red tape and streamlined regulatory responsibilities. New Real Estate Services and Real Estate Development Marketing Acts were introduced to ensure the real estate sector is better able to respond to a changing marketplace while enhancing consumer protection.
An expansion of online services is making it faster and easier for companies to exchange information with different levels of government. To meet modern business needs, a "one-stop" single business number service now allows people starting, moving or expanding a business to deal with a wide range of public agencies at one website, thereby avoiding duplication and speeding up services.
A strong economy, increased federal transfers, and sound fiscal management helped generate a $2.6 billion surplus and a $1.9 billion reduction in total provincial debt. British Columbia's improved fiscal performance provides a strong foundation upon which the government can continue to plan budget surpluses over the next three years while simultaneously increasing investments in health care, education, and other priority services.
I want to acknowledge the outstanding contributions made by all ministry staff during the past fiscal year. Their professionalism and expertise helped the government to meet important goals, including a stronger economy, balanced budgets, and improved credit ratings. On behalf of British Columbians, I am proud of their efforts and achievements, which are presented in greater detail in this service plan report for fiscal year 2004/05.
The 2004/05 Ministry of Finance Annual Service Plan Report compares the actual results to the expected results identified in the ministry's 2004/05 Service Plan. I am accountable for those results as reported.
Honourable Colin Hansen
June 15, 2005