VICTORIA — British Columbia’s auditor general is defending his criticism of the provincial government over a long-standing difference of opinion about how some public accounting numbers should be crunched.

Michael Pickup says his job is to give an opinion and he believes the Finance Ministry should change the way it reports payments from other governments and non-government sources.

Pickup says grants from the federal government, for example, should be recorded as revenue rather than deferred revenue — an adjustment that would result this year in a $6.5-billion boost to the surplus.

The Finance Ministry, however, says it records the figures that way for restricted grants that cover multiple years so that the reported revenue will better reflect its allocation over time.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Selina Robinson announced British Columbia’s public accounts registered an “unexpected” surplus of $1.3 billion, in sharp contrast with a forecasted deficit of almost $10 billion.

She said the improved bottom line could be attributed to reopening the economy and the resulting increase in tax revenue, one-time federal contributions for COVID-19 and disaster events, higher natural resource revenues and higher Crown corporation earnings, especially at the Insurance Corp. of B.C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2022.

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