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B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

The B.C. government’s 2019 budget is getting a generally rosy response from the business community, but with concerns of how the economy will support the NDP’s spending plan.

The budget, released Tuesday, includes no new taxes, but points to increasing property taxes and the carbon tax to, in part, bring government revenue to as high as $2.4-billion.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade gave the budget an overall grade of B-.

“Budget 2019 was a ‘steady as we go’ budget,” CEO Iain Black said in a news release. “However, it is also a budget built and balanced on a series of tax increases made last year that have now started to impact employers.”

Both the board of trade and the Business Council of B.C. agree more support for growing families is a positive way to help combat affordability challenges plaguing communities across the province.

“Economically, though, we are concerned there were few meaningful announcements with respect to productivity, competitiveness, and economic growth,” Black said.

Business Council of B.C. executive vice president Jock Finlayson said in a news release he budget did not acknowledge slower global growth, which has started to already affect B.C. He questions where the NDP plans to pull money from in the future to support its spending.

“British Columbia is not immune to the storm clouds darkening the global economy,” Finlayson said. “In fact, despite several years of solid GDP growth and low unemployment, we are starting to see mixed economic signals in the province, with sluggish retail sales, increased outmigration to other provinces, and a major adjustment underway in housing markets.”

In touting her balanced budget, Finance Minister Carole James said B.C. is thriving, and pointed to further spending announcements in the spring.

The budget includes $750-million in a contingency fund and a $500-million forecast allowance. Surpluses are forecast to increase to $274 million through the fiscal year.

The budget is also based on ICBC’s financial “dumpster fire” will being reversed – in fact making profits – in as little as two years.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business vice president Richard Truscott told Black Press Media the budget also doesn’t do much for small business owners, all of whom are expecting an “incredibly difficult” year because of the new employer health tax, anticipated changes to employment regulations, and the carbon tax going up.

Even businesses in the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan – where the economy has been traditionally strong – are struggling, he said.

“There’s a long list of other things that are hitting small business in a major negative way,” Truscott said. “It would have been nice to see something in this budget, whether it was tax relief or cutting red tape or something to support entrepreneurs in B.C.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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