British Columbia ended the fiscal year with a $4.1-billion surplus, the province announced yesterday, almost $3.5 billion more than forecast.

Critics, however, said the sizable surplus is evidence that the province is deliberately underestimating its budgets.

Despite a more than $700-million drop in natural gas revenue, this year’s surplus was driven by higher than anticipated tax income and increased returns from Crown corporations. It also included a $561-million infrastructure contribution from the federal government.


Finance Minister Carole Taylor said $1 billion of the extra cash would be put toward the provincial debt and $3.4 billion would go toward capital projects like roads, bridges, hospitals and schools.

Opposition House Leader Mike Farnworth, however, accused the B.C. Liberals of deliberately understating their surpluses — by more than a billion dollars in each of the last three years.

“We could be having a much more informed budget debate, particularly on priorities and where spending should be,” said Farnworth, the New Democrat MLA for Port Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

“(Taylor) is saying at a press conference, in the middle of the summer, where our spending priorities should be. (That debate) should be taking place in the legislature.”