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Deficit may change to match the facts: Premier Campbell

VICTORIA - The British Columbia government will introduce a new budget on September 1 that may not meet the $495-million deficit set for 2009-2010 in the February budget.

“We're obviously living in a very volatile time,” said Premier Gordon Campbell following the swearing in of the B.C. Liberal Party caucus today. “When facts change we have to be willing to change.”

During the election campaign Campbell insisted the government would meet the deficit figure, despite mounting evidence the province's economy was in worse shape than was previously known.

Today he said the government would maintain the promised spending, but he declined to reaffirm the size of the deficit.

“It will pretty much resemble the February budget in terms of spending and protecting the services like health and education,” Campbell said. “We're aiming to accomplish the deficit we set for ourselves . . . We've been working on this now for five months so there's lots of work to be done but as you know the world is changing pretty dramatically.”

Campbell said even to make the February numbers for the next three years requires finding another $1.9 billion in cuts. “We're searching for smart solutions that will work in the long term,” he said. “You can't get out of a challenging time simply by borrowing more money when the challenge has been there's been too much money borrowed in the past.”

The provincial cabinet will be sworn in at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Government House and MLAs will return to the legislature for a fall sitting starting August 25, he said.

The Tyee reported in March 2008 that despite signs of a coming economic slump the provincial government appeared to be doing little to prepare. Starting in February the Tyee reported that the province was unlikely to meet its deficit figure.

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

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