Finance Minister Carole James at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 26, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Consumer spending ‘cautious,’ B.C. finance minister says

Carole James sees housing sales pick up, resources in decline

The B.C. government continues to reduce its expected surplus this year, as consumer spending cools off and revenue from forest products and other resources declines.

Finance Minister Carole James released the province’s second quarter financial results Tuesday, showing $133 million reduction in expected forest revenues for the year ending next March. Coal, electricity and oil and gas revenues have also seen a reduction in revenue forecasts, with natural resource revenues in general down $235 million from the first quarter estimate.

Income tax revenue forecasts are up, based on B.C.’s continued strong population and employment growth, but consumer spending is slowing down. James said that is due to economic concerns, both in B.C. and globally.

Retail sales grew by only 0.6 per cent during the first six months of the 2019-20 fiscal year, continuing a slowdown from 9.3 per cent growth in 2017 and two per cent last year. The slowdown is primarily “a decline in housing-related spending and new vehicle sales,” James said.

Average home sale prices fell by 3.3 per cent up to October 2019, after a slight increase in 2018. Housing starts are up so far in 2019, with 45,112 starts so far in 2019 compared to 40,857 in 2018.

RELATED: ICBC improving, still not out of the red, minister says

RELATED: Population, low mortgage rates drive housing recovery

Revenue forecasts for the B.C. Lottery Corp. and Liquor Distribution Branch are down from the September forecast, with lower casino revenues and sluggish sales for legal marijuana in B.C. James said there is some improvement in sales from B.C. Cannabis and private retail stores, but it is too soon to say if the province will break even on cannabis sales in the current year.

“B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch net income forecast has declined $18 million due to the delayed rollout of private and public cannabis stores and lower than anticipated demand,” the second quarter report states.

James said other cost-saving measures are in the works for ICBC, which saw billion-dollar losses the last two years before a cap on “pain and suffering” awards and diversion of smaller injury claims from court took effect in April. The budget continues to carry a $500 contingency fund to cover ICBC losses this year, as higher premiums and a new risk-based rate system come into effect.

Overall, the province now projects a surplus of $148 million, down from $179 million in the September update.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RCMP: Appledale homicide investigation still active

A 59-year-old man was found dead on May 20

RDCK appoints new regional fire chief

Nora Hannon has been acting head of the fire service since the old chief’s departure in the summer

Promoter fundraises for new Kootenay Country Music Fest

UPDATED: Travis Pangburn has de-activated the $150,000 Gofundme campaign

Kaslo commits to 100 per cent renewable energy plan

Nine local governments have made the pledge this year

Storm prompts travel warning for Boundary, West Kootenay

Up to 25 cm expected on high mountain passes

VIDEO: These are the top toys this Christmas, B.C. toy experts say

Consider the play value of a game, staff at Toy Traders say

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Aid a priority for idled Vancouver Island loggers, John Horgan says

Steelworkers, Western Forest Products returning to mediation

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

Most Read