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

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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney’s Haunted Bookshop is changing owners with longtime owner Odean Long transferring ownership Dec. 1 to William Matthews. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Longtime owner of Sidney’s Haunted Bookshop closes chapter with sale

Odean Long and her late husband moved the business to Sidney in 1996

Goldstream Food Bank volunteers at work. Light Up the City will be offering various options for the public to drop off non-perishable food items to support this food bank and others in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria residents can show their charity through Light Up the City

Drive-thru food bank and toy donation dropoff sites open up this Saturday around region

North Saanich will encourage but not force residents to burn outdoor waste on days with good venting index. (Black Press Media File)
North Saanich fires up comprehensive strategy report on outdoor burning, green waste disposal

North Saanich to encourage but not require residents to burn only on days with good venting index

The Town of Sidney will receive $2.75 million in direct grant support from the provincial government to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A report before council Monday recommends a “cautious and measured approach” in using the funds. (Black Press Media File)
Staff suggest Sidney be cautious spending $2.75 million from province

Staff also warn of financial ‘uncertainty’ and raise prospect of tax increase

A 43-year-old woman is facing charges for impaired driving and leaving the scene of a crash after attempting to flee from police by driving down the beach in front of the Oak Bay Marina on Nov. 23. (Oak Bay Police/Twitter)
Victoria woman drives over seawall onto beach near Oak Bay Marina

Driver faces charges for fleeing crash, refusing breathalyzer test

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read