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NDP question the fudge in BC budget

The NDP spent today's question period poking at the fudge in the budget Finance Minister Colin Hansen presented yesterday.

How can the province be expecting to collect more income tax, Victoria-Hillside MLA Rob Fleming wanted to know, when the economy is shedding jobs?

“We base our revenue projections based on the best independent advice that we can get,” Hansen said. “The revenue projections that are contained in this budget are based on the economic analysis by independent sources and . . . advice of some of the finest public servants that have served this province that work in the Ministry of Finance.”

Then what, Fleming wanted to know, about the sales tax? “Can the minister explain how he expects sales tax revenue to go up in his budget when sales and retail confidence are tanking?”

Hansen answered, “What I've found in every corner of British Columbia is British Columbians who do have confidence in this province.”

The MLA for Malahat-Juan de Fuca, John Horgan, then asked about the revenue projections for B.C. Hydro. The budget anticipates collecting an extra $100 million from the B.C. Hydro and Power Authority, up some 27 percent from the current year.

But just yesterday, Horgan said, B.C. Hydro announced its third quarter revenues were down $29 million from the same quarter a year earlier. He asked, “Where are you getting your advice on this one? The Wizard of Oz?”

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom took the question: “Their revenue that they bring in on behalf of every British Columbian is based on the projections that they put forward and through their filings with the [British Columbia Utilities Commission] . . . I'm confident that, although you feel that the numbers are not there to suffice what you believe you'd like to spend, we believe they are.”

The response best indicating how the Liberals will respond to such accusations came in the earlier exchange, when Fleming asked Hansen if he is “banking on a September surprise—a new budget that's actually based on the cold reality going on in the economy?”

Before Hansen could take the house on a memory trip back to 1996, Government house leader Mike de Jong heckled: “Who on Earth would do such a thing?”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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