EDITORIAL: Facing the fiscal music with B.C.’s stand-pat budget

As the Liberal leadership race gets down to its final days, and the new premier of B.C. is selected by party members, B.C. residents should take some time to contemplate the provincial budget, released last week to a collective yawn.

As the Liberal leadership race gets down to its final days, and the new premier of B.C. is selected by party members, B.C. residents should take some time to contemplate the provincial budget, released last week to a collective yawn.As expected, it contained virtually no new initiatives, as there is no active government in place right now. Premier Gordon Campbell is in his final days as caretaker; the cabinet ministers who are still working are doing routine tasks; and the direction the government takes will be determined by the new leader, and by public reaction to that leader.However, despite the lacklustre budget, there are a few noteworthy points. One is that government debt is rising at a breathtaking rate, with very little of that debt actually due to the current deficit. Most of it, in fact, is for capital projects, with much of that for BC Hydro.The debt could be close to $60 billion by 2013. When the BC Liberals were first elected in 2001, the debt was $34 billion.There is another point to take note of. Finance Minister Colin Hansen took pains to point out expected growing revenue from the HST. Revenue is expected to be $4.2 billion in 2010-11 (including PST revenue) and rise to $6.5 billion by 2013-14.But there is no guarantee the HST will survive a referendum vote. The old PST, if reinstated, would not bring in as much revenue because it does not apply to as many items.In other words, this budget has a great deal of uncertainty associated with it, and despite all the political song and dance routines we are hearing, B.C. has many major fiscal challenges ahead of it.u Black Press