“Credible” case BC Liberals can pay for Throne Speech promises: UBC economist
A UBC economist says it’s entirely possible the money is there to pay for more than $1.5-billion in new spending pledged in the BC Liberal Throne Speech.
The Liberals raised eyebrows on Thursday by reversing course on a number of policies they had previously campaigned against, borrowing big ticket platform planks like $1-billion for child care or scrapping bridge tolls from the NDP.
In the wake of the speech, Finance Minister Mike de Jong justified the new spending with reference to an improved economic forecast.
LISTEN: Economist Kevin Milligan explains why the government may have more money to spend than the February budget accounted for
Kevin Milligan with the UBC School of Economics says it’s entirely possible de Jong’s numbers are right.
He says B.C.’s labour force has grown by one per cent this year, while Canada’s first quarter GDP growth has nearly doubled its forecast, coming in at 3.6 per cent.
“Since the budget came out, all the economic news we’ve received has been good, not just good, but better than expected,” Milligan said.
WATCH: What was promised in the BC Liberals throne speech?
He says he ran the GDP numbers against the federal budget, where he says it shaved between $5-billion and $10-billion from the deficit.
“That’s the federal budget, that isn’t the provincial budget, but the same kind of thing can happen here. Growth comes in much higher than expected, revenue will increase substantially,” he said.
“I actually think it’s credible that there’s been a big surprise. Now I don’t know whether that surprise is big enough to pay for everything that was in that Throne Speech, we haven’t seen the actual numbers, we’ve just seen a speech about it.”
But Milligan says the revenue boost cuts both ways and would equally benefit the NDP, changing the calculation of what’s affordable for the province.
“And what that means is, it is quite possible to imagine that [NDP Leader John] Horgan would be able to deliver substantially on his financial promises and also balance the budget. I don’t think that’s out of the possibility.”
Despite the 30 new promises in the BC Liberal Throne Speech, at least a dozen of which were borrowed from the NDP and Green platforms, the opposition parties are widely expected to vote it down.
The NDP-Green alliance is expected to call for a confidence vote when they return to the Legislature on Monday.
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