VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark is warning British Columbians to brace for bad economic news Wednesday but she still promises to balance the province's budget next year.
Clark said Tuesday Finance Minister Mike de Jong will deliver a second-quarter economic update that outlines B.C.'s current economic status, and the numbers aren't positive.
But she told a Coquitlam Chamber of Commerce luncheon her government will do whatever it takes, short of cutting health and education funding, to table a balanced budget in February.
"You'll see a clearer picture of what exactly we are facing, but I do want to give you a heads up: it won't be pretty," said Clark.
British Columbians go to the polls in May and Clark said she will point to her government's balanced budget as the commitment to voters to build a stronger province.
"The global economic uncertainty that we're facing has put huge pressure on our commodity prices here in British Columbia and it's certainly affected our budget," Clark said. "But we're going to balance our budget nevertheless and we're going to look at everything to do it."
"No, we will not cut education. No, we will not cut health care, but we will do what it takes to get to balance," she said.
Two months ago, de Jong said dropping natural gas revenues blew a hole in the province's budget plans, forcing him to increase the projected budget deficit forecast to $1.1 billion, up from $968 million.
De Jong said it wasn't going to be easy, but the government intends to stick to its own law that calls for a balanced budget in 2013-14.
Clark reaffirmed that commitment.
"We do need to balance the budget because this is the year where we get a chance to stand out, to be different, to attract investment from all over the world because we've charted a very different path," she said.
Clark said B.C. will be one of the few economies in Canada and around the world that showcases its rejection of deficit financing.
The Opposition New Democrats said B.C.'s balanced budget law hasn't stopped the Liberals from tabling consecutive deficit budgets. The Liberals have twice previously amended the balanced budget law to permit deficits.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix said if elected premier in May, his government would eliminate the balanced budget law. He said the NDP would strive to balance its budgets rather than pay lip service to a law and changing it when the target is missed.
Clark said a government that doesn't respect a balanced budget law ends up accepting deficits.
Clark's Liberals announced hiring and spending freezes to stop the financial bleeding following September's quarterly update.
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