In about 24 hours, the B.C. Liberals are expected to lose a confidence vote in the legislature.But on Wednesday, the finance minister released details of the province’s unexpected $2.8 billion dollar surplus. As Mary Griffin reports, Mike de Jong paints a rosy picture on the eve of his government’s defeat.
Mike de Jong strolled into the B.C. legislature’s press theatre Wednesday in what was likely his last briefing to reporters as B.C.’s finance minister.
He said the province has a healthy bottom line.
“The anticipated surplus for the fiscal year, 16-17, is just about 2.8 billion dollars. Again, subject to audit,” de Jong said.
Last week, the Liberals’ throne speech, read by Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon, appeared to lift segments from the NDP’s platform.
“Your government will amend the 2017 budget to make a billion-dollar investment in child care and early childhood education over the next four years – the single largest boost in B.C. history. Budget 2017 will be amended to increase social assistance rates by $100 per month,” Guichon read.
But during the election campaign, the Liberals criticized the NDP promises, such as increasing welfare rates.
“To suggest all these things can happen and they’ll be no consequence to the B.C. taxpayer is misleading,” de Jong said.
But with the government expected to fall after a confidence vote Thursday, the Liberals are leaving with an unexpected surplus.
In hindsight, de Jong says they should have done things differently with welfare rates.
“People said, well, if that is so, then surely you can share a little bit more of that. And in retrospect, probably should have,” de Jong said.
That view did not go over well with poverty advocate Kelly Newhook, with Together Against Poverty.
“When the minister says, oh, we should have raised income assistance rates, that’s not good enough,” Newhook said.
“Yes, you should have. You haven’t for a decade. This is a really last minute, kind of death bed confessional, if you will, of what you could have, and should have been doing for the last 10 years.”
And NDP Finance Critic Carole James is not having any of it either.
“I think what you are seeing is one more event, one more example of a government that is clinging to power that knows that they are on their way out and don’t want to let go,” James said.
Even with a rosy financial picture, it may not be enough for the Liberal government to survive.