B.C.’s financial strength the focus of keynote address at CEO Breakfast

0 109 Government

by Russell Hixson

B.C. is in much better shape than other provinces after years of hard work, said provincial Finance Minister Michael de Jong.
B.C.’s financial strength the focus of keynote address at CEO Breakfast

He gave the keynote address at this year's invite-only CEO breakfast hosted by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association to kick off Buildex Vancouver on Feb. 25.

"When all is said and done, we end up with a forecast approaching $900 million," he said. "Not bad when you consider where some of our neighboring provinces are."

De Jong said he would characterize the growth as stable, but not spectacular. B.C. released its balanced budget last week, which is not something many other provinces will be able to match. De Jong said that the construction industry should take note of this.

"For you, as business people, this is relevant," he said. "Governments that have their fiscal house in order are probably less inclined to surprise you."

He gave several reasons for the province's financial strength.

First of all, its trade economy is very diverse. Alberta, however, sees 90 per cent of its trade exports got to the U.S.

"If you are 90 per cent dependent on one market, you are exposed," he said.

The province has also made tough decisions to reduce direct operating debt, which increased during the recession.

At its height in 2005, the debt was at $15 billion and it now is below $5 billion.

De Jong called this "borrowing money to pay for groceries" and that it is important to pay back as the economy improves.

He also condensed the balanced budget to a simple principle.

"I call it the tale of two lines. Keep the solid line above the dotted line guys. It works. I don't mean to be flippant about that, but it is something that has eluded other governments. You take in money and if you spend more than that you have a problem," he said.

When pressed about B.C.'s touted liquified natural gas (LNG) industry, de Jong said he is still confident that projects will eventually move forward.

"Nobody is putting that on the shelf, it will occur on a timetable dictated on economics. The crystal ball on that is a little bit foggy," he said.

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