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'What changed is the election is over': NDP's Ralston

VICTORIA – Finance Minister Colin Hansen's shifting position on the economy and the British Columbia budget has more to do with politics than economics, said New Democratic Party finance critic Bruce Ralston.

“He's moving to a new position, he's just doing it slowly,” said Ralston. “What changed is the election is over. Clearly.”

On April 27 Hansen told the Tyee, "At this point I'm not anticipating any dramatic departure from what we tabled in February." He made the pledge two days after Premier Gordon Campbell told reporters a Liberal government would meet the $495-million deficit budgeted for fiscal 2009-2010.

Yesterday, not quite two weeks after the May 12 election, the CBC reported, “Finance Minister Colin Hansen said Monday he 'just can't' guarantee the figures will be honoured, although they are still his expectation.”

Hansen was unavailable for an interview today. A ministry spokesperson said Hansen had nothing to say on the subject that he hasn't already said publicly.

“It's pretty clear there's no way they're going to make their budget numbers,” said Ralston. “Despite the rhetoric of Campbell and Hansen in the campaign, things are still continuing to go down.”

The government will either have to run a larger deficit or make big cuts to the budget, he said.

The Liberals enjoy a better reputation for managing the economy than they deserve, he said. “It's a bit of a myth on their part, but enough people were prepared to accept it to squeak them back in.”

Observers have said since February that the B.C. government's 2009-2010 budget was unrealistic, the Tyee noted.

Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty announced today that the federal deficit is now expected to be $50 billion, some $16 billion more than he forecast presenting his budget in January.

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

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