The Public Affairs Update is your weekly insight, perspective and analysis on politics in British Columbia and Canada. This newsletter is brought to you by the largest, and most broadly-based business organization in the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce – the Voice of Business in B.C.
|B.C. budget update shows bigger surplus than expected
|Last week, the Province released audited statements for the 2013-2014 fiscal year that show a surplus of $353 million. This is $200 million higher than projected in the budget tabled after the last provincial election.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the surplus is the result of government spending controls, claiming government “belt tightening” in the form of a hiring freeze and reductions in discretionary spending offset government revenues that came in $511 million lower than projections. Despite the surplus, de Jong says the provincial government will stay the course on spending and will forego any major new spending initiatives.
B.C. NDP Finance Critic Mike Farnworth responded by saying that the Province balanced its budget by drawing from new sources of revenue from British Columbians, such as additional fees and licences, which have provided $303 million to the Province.
While the province’s budget is balanced on the operational side, the government continues to borrow for capital projects such as schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure. As a result, the province’s debt has increased to $60.8 billion – an increase of four billion dollars from the previous year.
|Wildfires spread in British Columbia
|A fire that broke out in West Kelowna Thursday is one of approximately 163 forest fires across the province. This last fire has forced more than 2,500 people from their homes and West Kelowna’s mayor and council have declared a local state of emergency to the municipality’s 31,000 residents. Officials in Hudson’s Hope also issued evacuation orders, however these were lifted Thursday.
Fighting wildfires is putting the pinch on the provincial treasury. Forest firefighting is costing the B.C. government $3 million to $5 million a day.
Information on the ongoing wildfires can be found here.
|Study shows Kitimat airshed can handle new development
|Results from an independent study commissioned by the B.C. government show that, with proper management, Kitimat’s airshed can safely accommodate new industrial growth.
The Kitimat Airshed Assessment looked at the cumulative effects of industrial air emissions, primarily sulphur and nitrogen oxides, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment from the following:
- Rio Tinto Alcan’s existing aluminium smelter and its planned modernization;
- A proposed oil refinery;
- Four proposed LNG facilities;
- BC Hydro gas turbine powered electrical generation facilities; and
- Predicted increased to marine shipping in Douglas Channel.
The study shows that by adhering to world-leading emissions standards, nitrogen dioxide levels will be significantly reduced, allowing industrial expansion to be safely managed in the airshed.
Twelve scenarios were evaluated, based on a range of existing and proposed facilities with various levels of emissions treatments. Each scenario considered the potential effects of sulphur and nitrogen oxides on vegetation, water, soil and human health. The study confirmed there is lots of opportunity for industrial growth in the airshed if properly managed.