Labour costs shape B.C. budget

B.C. will balance its budget for a second straight year, despite a larger than usual contingency fund for labour costs

Finance Minister Mike de Jong got a favourite pair of shoes resoled and an extra hole drilled in his belt for budget day on Tuesday.

VICTORIA – B.C. will balance its budget for a second straight year, despite a larger than usual contingency fund for labour costs, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Monday.

De Jong wouldn’t comment directly on a January court decision in favour of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, which Education Minister Peter Fassbender has estimated could cost $1 billion over the coming years.

But de Jong said there are only two ways the government could cover unexpected labour costs without going back into deficit.

“One is to ask the taxpayers for more money, and we’re not prepared to do that,” de Jong said. “And the second is that it comes from somewhere else in the budget.”

Government lawyers filed in the B.C. Court of Appeal Friday for a stay of provisions that would force school districts to return to staffing rules in place in 2001. Its submission said the ruling would cost Surrey school district $40 million in the first year, with similar financial impacts on all 60 districts.

Affidavits from school district superintendents around the province said the ruling would involve construction of portables, reorganization of classes, cancellation of special needs, preschool and child care programs and other disruptions.

De Jong said the 2013-14 budget surplus is “modestly ahead” of the forecasts, and no major tax changes are coming this year. For the fiscal year that begins April 1, he expects B.C. and Saskatchewan to be the only provinces with balanced budgets.


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