The Province’s Finance Minister Carole Taylor made a tour of the colonies, er, regions this week, her Northwest stop in Rupert taking up a portion of her Wednesday as she spoke with the Chamber of Commerce, she then settled in for a tour of the area and its projects, wrapping up with a Select Standing Committee hearing on Thursday night.
Part of the tour was designed to showcase the Ministry’s plans for consultation on budgetary issues, in the mail and soon to arrive at your door is an information package from the government which includes a questionnaire where BC citizens will be asked about a list of priorities. We will be asked to rank the priorities from 1 to 11 with 1 being our top priority and 11 being the one we could care less about.
So, if we have a particular desire for something from one area, it might come at the expense of something else from elsewhere in the Provincial Budget, or result in an increase in taxes. However, judging by the tone of this government the re-allocation of existing monies is probably the path that will eventually be followed.
The Daily News covered the Ministers trip to the northwest extensively in its Thursday edition, the results of which we podunkicize for you below.
B. C. FINANCE MINISTER GETS VALUE FROM TOUR OF RUPERT
Carole Taylor visits to listen and explain why province won’t be overspending
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, October 5, 2006
Page One and Two
For the first time this year, the province’s Minister of Finance isn’t just asking British Columbians where the province should spend more money, but where it should spend less.
Carole Taylor, Minister of Finance, told the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce that her ministry has mailed a budget questionnaire to every household in British Columbia asking people what their priorities are for the 2007 budget. The questionnaire includes a list of priorities and asks people to rank them from one to 11, with one being their top priority and 11 their lowest priority.
“In the past, we’ve just asked what people want to spend more money on,” said Taylor. “What will be very interesting to me is what you will put at the bottom of that list.
What I am trying to provoke in people to realize that everything is a trade off,”
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is currently touring the province to hear from the public before putting together the 2007 budget. The committee will be holding a public hearing on budge priorities at the Crest from 4 to 7 p. m. today. Taylor explained that the province of B. C. has legislation that requires a balanced budget.
Because of this, the finance minister has very few levers to pull in order to generate more revenue to pay for long-term programs, she said.
Therefore, if people want to see more money spent on long-term programs, the money has to come from another section of the budget or an increase in taxes.
And she’s generally not in favour of increasing taxes.
“I know what happened in the 90’s; I know if you have a cumulative taxation regime, people leave, businesses leave. We have not recovered and probably won’t in my time the number of head offices that left B. C. in the 1980’s,” she said.
And while the economy of B. C. looks set to be strong in coming years. Taylor added that there are some challenges on the horizon.
“You can do some one-time spending for sure when you have a surplus but where you do ongoing spending, you’ve go to be mindful of the cycles of economy,” she said.
The first challenge for the province is the impact of the rising Canadian dollar.
Every time the Canadian dollar goes up a penny, we lose between $25 and $40 million in revenues. It affects tourism and exports primarily,” she said.
The second challenge is that B. C. is tied closely to the U. S. economy, which is showing signs of slowing. Housing starts have gone have gone down in the U. S. now has the lowest housing start levels in since the recession in 1991. And the third challenge for B. C.’s economy will be the price of natural gas.
“A one-dollar change is a #300 million change is our revenue, up or down,” she said.
Given these challenges, she explained, it would be fiscally irresponsible to commit every penny the government expects to be received into provincial coffers.
“What we are trying to do is build a strong economy in Prince Rupert and elsewhere that is there for the long term. We want it there for a couple of decades, not for a couple of years,” she said.