BUSINESS

B.C. finance minister readies shiny old shoes for Tuesday's balanced budget

02/16/2015 02:46 EST | Updated 04/18/2015 05:59 EDT
VICTORIA - Finance Minister Mike de Jong has had an old pair of black leather shoes shined and repaired before wearing them Tuesday to introduce what he says will be the third consecutive balanced budget.

De Jong held a pre-budget news conference Monday at a downtown Victoria shoe repair shop where he paid $40 to have his budget shoes polished and reheeled.

He said he'll don the spruced-up shoes for a third budget as he puts a twist on the political tradition of finance ministers wearing new footwear on budget day, the same as some of his Canadian counterparts have done in recent years.

"For all three budgets, I've had these shoes on," de Jong said.

He said Tuesday's budget will include a surplus higher than the $444 million forecast last fall. He said it will also include forecasts of surpluses for the next three years.

De Jong said B.C. will likely be the only province in Canada to table a balanced budget this year, for which the fiscal cycle concludes on March 31, 2015.

"We have something that virtually no other province is going to see, which is a balanced budget," he said.

Prince Edward Island has suggested it will table a balanced for the 2015-2016 budget year, while Quebec is aiming for a balanced budget in 2015-2016.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said plummeting oil prices may have recently placed his province into a deficit budget position.

De Jong said B.C.'s budget will include increased spending in social services, health, education and the removal of a two-year tax on high-income earners.

Two years ago, the government implemented a temporary two per cent income tax hike on people earning $150,000 or more a year to help bring the province out of deficit. De Jong said the tax earned the province about $200 million a year, and expires this year.

He said health-care spending, the highest cost item in the budget, has increased but the government has kept it below three per cent. De Jong said spending hikes on education will help fund pay increases for teachers after a strike last year.

"You are going to see with the little bit of room the surpluses create for us, some changes that I believe assist lower-income British Columbians in a variety of ways."

The Opposition New Democrats, social services groups and single mothers on assistance have been demanding that the government stop deducting support payments from income and disability payments.