Delta Chamber of Commerce encouraged by B.C. budget
The recently tabled B.C. budget will protect taxpayers and maintain the province's strong credit rating, said Ian Tait, chair of the Delta Chamber of Commerce.
But the government still has to keep an eye on spending, warned Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington.
“At the Delta chamber, we are encouraged to see in this budget that the provincial government plans to maintain its protection of taxpayers from additional tax pressures," said Tait. "After all, taxpayers are our business consumers."
"We also regard maintaining B.C.’s strong credit rating as a priority for the business community because it supports continued investment in the province and growth of business," he added.
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon presented his first budget Tuesday (Feb. 21), with a deficit of $969 million for the fiscal year starting April 1, as B.C. pays to end the harmonized sales tax. His three-year plan predicts a $154 million surplus in 2013-14 and $250 million surplus the following year.
To do that, the budget aims to hold government spending growth down to two per cent for three years, with most of it going to health and education. That leaves most other ministries with little or no increase for inflation, a restriction that is expected to reduce overall B.C. government staff from about 27,000 this year to 25,000 by 2014-15.
Tait said the Delta chamber had a concern shared among fellow member chambers in the BC Chamber of Commerce about the increase in provincial debt carried by the consumer, which is expected to rise over the next three years.
"The BC Chamber will continue to express our concern to the provincial government, but we can take some comfort that B.C. will continue to maintain its strong credit rating which is so important for investment in B.C. and our businesses here," Tait said.
Falcon also reversed course on business taxes. The government has been promising for years that it would eliminate the small business income tax this spring, after lowering it to the current 2.5 per cent. Now it will continue at 2.5 per cent until B.C.'s financial picture improves.
Falcon is also considering a one per cent increase in the general corporate tax rate to 11 per cent, but not for another year depending on financial conditions.
Delta South independent MLA Huntington said B.C. has challenges ahead as debt continues to grow.
"The government is quite properly holding the line on spending in the program sector, but continues to spend drunkenly behind the scenes, so to speak. The budget will add $15 billion to a debt load that will have nearly doubled since 2002 – $66.4 billion by 2014 is an unsustainable burden for both our children and our future economic health,” Huntington stated.
From Delta's perspective, Huntington said the 2012 budget brings both good and bad news.
“I am pleased government responded to our lobbying efforts with a review of the impacts of the Carbon Tax on the competitiveness of the greenhouse and cement industries,” Huntington said, while also praising the new $10,000 tax credit for new home buyers as helping both young families and the housing industry.
“However, the government continues to throttle the Agricultural Land Commission,” she said. “Either they believe in protecting agricultural land, or they don’t. And there is growing evidence in Delta that they have little interest in preserving our ability to grow food.”
—With files from Tom Fletcher