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

Documentary on legendary Chief Tzouhalem to be filmed in Cowichan

Film is the latest project by Drama Camp Productions

West Shore RCMP arrests five suspects in multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking investigation

Cocaine, prohibited loaded handgun, weapons, stolen vehicles seized

Bottle drive Saturday to assist sick Cowichan teenager and family

Sammy Dubois, 14, disgnosed with rare neurological disorder

Editorial: Alternative approval process is not the enemy

Not everything should go to a referendum.

Provincial success stands out at Cowichan Secondary awards

Wrestling, basketball and field hockey teams earn recognition in shortened year

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

RCMP disarm man experiencing mental health crisis

The male pulled a knife on officers and then held it to his own throat expressing a desire to die

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Most Read