Strong retail sales, the booming real estate market and upticks in oil and gas and mining helped BC record a 1.7 billion dollar surplus in the last fiscal year.
That’s nearly 900 million dollars higher than expected.
Finance minister Mike de Jong says the black ink gives the government a bit more spending room, but the real benefit for British Columbians is lower interest payments.
“We are saving hundreds of millions of dollars on debt servicing costs. That is money that is available to fund programs, health care, education, public safety, that would otherwise go to financial institutions.”
That’s on the operating side of the budget, but the total provincial debt continues to climb, up 2.2 billion dollars to 63 billion overall.
De Jong says that’s due to increased borrowing for capital projects like schools and hospitals.
BC’s biggest taxpayer-funded executives aren’t doing quite as well as in previous years.
De Jong says overall executive compensation dropped more than four per-cent last year thanks to belt-tightening measures.
He compared the province to a hockey team building through player development –rather than signing expensive free agents.
“We are by population at least a small market team. We have to build a winner. We have to identify talent within British Columbia and we have to develop and nurture and develop it internally as opposed to being on the free agency market–which by the way is no guarantee of success.”
BC Hydro subsidiary Powerex Managing Director Thomas Bechard was the top earning civil servant last year, pulling in 958-thousand dollars –a drop of 16-thousand from the previous year.