FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Despite the collapse of global energy and commodity prices, the B-C government continues to bask in the countries’ economic spotlight, with Finance Minister Mike de Jong confirming last week, that final public accounting for the fiscal year that ended March 31st shows economic growth of three per cent, and a budget surplus of $730 million, more than double the government forecast.
This comes at a time when no other province in the country has a budget in the black and the Conference Board of Canada has lowered to less than one and half percent its 2016 economic growth projections, citing as the largest source of weakness in the national economy, steep deterioration in business investment due to the collapse in energy spending.
Mr. De Jong says much of the revenue increase comes from the property transfer taxes, the government charges on residential and commercial real estate deals, but the provincial economy is also the beneficiary of the sagging value of the loonie, seen as a key factor in driving up both tourism numbers and the price of lumber.
Still the province does have concerns and front and centre are the sagging world market prices for natural gas, which have left this region in an economic shambles.
Thus, Mr. De Jong has taken time to address those ready to throw-in-the-towel in the LNG Industry development fight, insisting pursuit of offshore markets for natural gas remains an important government priority.
Another concern is the lack of progress in the new Softwood Lumber talks, after a group of 25 US senators signed a public letter repeating long standing American claims that Canadian lumber is subsidized and therefore unfairly traded.
They argue it has caused decades of adverse American economic impact, and GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump appears to be on the same page, as he continues to call NAFTA, and other trade deals negotiated in past 20 years, US disasters.
That’s drawn public criticism, from among others, Premier Clark, who has compared his position to building another wall but, in his acceptance speech closing the Republican Convention last week, Mr. Trump left little doubt, that if elected he will replace scrap any trade deal he views as unfair to the US.