MSP hike off as real estate lifts B.C. budget surplus

Property transfer tax expected to rake in nearly $1 billion more than planned for 2016

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

The B.C. government has scrapped a planned medical premium increase next year now that the province’s surplus has ballooned to nearly $2 billion.

The red hot real estate market is a big factor behind the improved financial picture detailed in the first quarter budget update released Thursday.

Property Transfer Tax revenues for 2016 are now forecast at $2.1 billion – an increase of $965 million over the budget – with $165 million projected to come from the new 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver homes.

The property transfer tax now far eclipses the $1.2 billion in forecast gambling revenue from the B.C. Lotteries Corp. and is just short of the $2.35 billion B.C. gets from all forestry, natural gas and other resource royalties.

The currently forecast surplus for the year of $1.94 billion is up from $264 million in the budget. And that’s after the province set aside $500 million for new housing priorities and other yet-to-be-announced measures.

“About half the value of the increased revenue from the Property Transfer Tax – $500 million – will be invested in new programs to benefit housing affordability and $400 million will be invested in the B.C. Prosperity Fund as a legacy for future generations,” Finance Minister Mike de Jong said.

The province is forecasting stronger 2.7 per cent economic growth for B.C. for 2016, up 0.3 per cent from budgeted.

The B.C. government now forecasts continued balanced budgets with surpluses of at least $900 million in each of the next two years.

De Jong said the higher revenues have allowed the government to cancel its planned four per cent increase to Medical Services Plan premiums set for Jan. 1 that would have increased costs for an adult by $36 a year.  Premiums will go down four per cent for those who are eligible for premium assistance.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman said the MSP premium freeze is a positive step but no great cause for celebration.

“This comes after 15 years of straight increases, more than doubling it on their watch,” he said. “So we’re not planning a parade for these guys and we still want to see (MSP premiums) scrapped completely.”

Bateman said the B.C. government uses medical premiums, rather than some more direct form of taxation for health care, so it can claim low overall taxes compared to other jurisdictions.

“A family like mine is paying $150 a month in this tax, yet it’s not calculated as part of the overall tax burden by government.”

He said the move to scrap the MSP hike shows the government is feeling pressure on cost-of-living issues.

Bateman also cautioned that revenue from the Property Transfer Tax may have peaked if the foreign buyers tax has indeed cooled what was a frenzied market with record sales and fast price gains.

Just Posted

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Most Read