The province finished last year $1.8 billion in the red, despite belt tightening that trimmed almost $1 billion from its projected budget deficit.

“Even if it is a billion dollars less than we projected, it is still a very sizable deficit,” Finance Minister Colin Hansen said Thursday in Victoria.

He said the $1-billion difference between projected and actual was primarily due to less spending.

Provincial tax revenues in 2009 plunged by $1.1 billion when compared to the year before, while monies from natural resources dropped by $1.2 billion.

Those losses were partially offset by increases in federal transfers.

In his September 2009 budget update, Hansen predicted four consecutive deficits totalling about $5.6 billion, returning to balanced budgets by 2013-14.

NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said it was rich the Liberals claimed a $1-billion deficit reduction, when they campaigned on the promise of a maximum $495-million deficit.

Public accounts
A few nuggets from Thursday’s release of the 2009/2010 Public Accounts.

• Premier Campbell will be docked $9,167 salary because of holdback legislation that penalizes cabinet ministers for not balancing budget.

• B.C.’s carbon tax collected $15 million less than was anticipated in 2009.

• An oddity from purchasing card excerpts: A stolen Ministry of Children credit card was billed $277 from Friendfinder, an online dating site. The charges were disputed and reversed.

• Tourism B.C. spent almost $37 million on its ‘You Gotta Be Here’ advertisement campaign. Of that, $31 million went to one company, Vizeum Canada Inc for advertising purchasing.

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