Historic deficit looms? - Metro US

Historic deficit looms?

B.C. is expected to forecast the largest deficit in its history today with the unveiling of the updated provincial budget, B.C.’s finance critic said yesterday.

The provincial shortfall, which was pegged at $495-million in February’s 2009 budget, could exceed $3 billion.

“The deficit that this government is going to deliver is going to be huge,” Bruce Ralston, the NDP’s finance critic, said yesterday after he introduced a private member’s bill to create an independent provincial budget officer.

“It may well be the biggest deficit in the history of the province.”

According to the Ministry of Finance’s historical operating statement, the largest deficits were $2.6 billion in 2002-03 and $2.3 billion in 1991-92. The figures are not converted to 2009 dollars.

Throughout the recent provincial election, Premier Gordon Campbell stuck to his guns, promising a $495-million deficit in 2009, followed by a $245-million deficit in 2010.

“What this budget will prove conclusively is that it was false at the time (Campbell) said it. And he knew it was false. He had to have known it was false.”

According to media reports, Finance Minister Colin Hansen revealed two weeks ago that projected revenues had dropped by more than $2 billion.

Natural gas revenues declined by half a billion in the last three months, while the cost of fighting wildfires has soared to more than $400 million.

The budget, however, could be bolstered by $1.6 billion in federal funding that is aimed at making the pending Harmonized Sales Tax easier to swallow.

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