British Columbia’s finances are going down the drain.
But here’s the good news: Finding savings within the B.C. government should be as easy as finding trees in Stanley Park.
First, we have to look at the bad news. The most recent budget update predicts the province will run a deficit of $6.7 billion this year. That’s $2.5 billion higher than predicted. There are no plans to present a balanced budget in the coming years.
Annual deficits mean our provincial spending is being financed through borrowing and a ballooning debt burden. Government debt is just deferred taxation that will cost British Columbians big bucks in the long run.
By the end of this year, provincial debt will total $103 billion, or roughly $20,600 per British Columbian.
Our debt is already higher than every province, except Quebec and Ontario. Per capita, we’re the worst in the West.
Ballooning debt also means more money wasted on interest charges. The interest payments on the provincial government’s debt are going to be $3.8 billion next year. That’s more than $73 million per week.
The province must start looking for savings. Here’s where the finance minister should start.
Political staffers who take six-figure salaries shouldn’t get raises that taxpayers can’t afford. NDP staffers took a pay raise of up to $17,000 from taxpayers this year alone. Chiefs of staff to ministers now make $122,000, which is $7,000 more than MLAs. Those raises far outpaced the increases that teachers, nurses and social workers saw.
Scraping pay hikes for partisan hacks is a great place to start, but it’ll take more to solve the problem.
The province also needs to take a hatchet to corporate welfare. The InBC Investment Corp. is a $500 million slush fund bureaucrats use to role play as investment bankers. Bureaucrats shouldn’t be playing dress-up as venture capitalists and they certainly shouldn’t be taking home $300,000 annual salaries while doing it.
Another egregious example of corporate welfare is the $284 million handed out by Premier David Eby and the feds to the Taiwanese battery giant E-One Moli. The province’s share of the tab is $80 million.
The corporate giveaway “will create up to 350 new jobs and secure over 100 existing positions,” according to a news release from the Prime Minister’s Office. Even if that comes to pass, it would mean each job will cost taxpayers more than $632,000.
Corporate giveaways aren’t a good use of taxpayers’ funds, especially when we’re facing a multibillion-dollar deficit this year.
What’s really needed is a culture shift in Victoria. Runaway spending isn’t sustainable, and we need to take a close look at bureaucratic bloat.
The number of B.C. bureaucrats has increased 31 per cent in the last seven years – from 32,790 in 2016-17, all the way up to 43,093. Adding more bloat to an already byzantine bureaucracy isn’t doing anything to help B.C.’s shaky public finances.
Since 2019, government operation spending has skyrocketed, increasing by 38 per cent. That isn’t sustainable. The province must go line-by-line through ministry spending looking for every opportunity to save taxpayers money.
With rising debts and deficits, the provincial government needs to take spending seriously. And that means going line by line to cull the waste.
Carson Binda is the British Columbia director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.