Advertisement

B.C. provincial budget deficit climbs to $13.6 billion; ICBC makes money

Click to play video 'B.C. deficit for 2020/2021 is projected to be $13.6B' B.C. deficit for 2020/2021 is projected to be $13.6B
B.C.'s economy is showing signs of improvement --- but a return to pre-pandemic levels won't happen until late in 2022. Global BC reporter Richard Zussman has details of Finance Minister Selina Robinson's announcement Thursday. – Dec 17, 2020

The B.C. government budget deficit has climbed to $13.6 billion following an additional $2 billion in new COVID-19 spending, while the provincial economy continues to improve from the spring.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Selina Robinson said the province is also expecting another $1.4 billion in revenue from the first-quarter fiscal update.

ICBC, meanwhile, is forecasting a net income of $410 million, up from $86 million mainly due to savings from lower claims costs because of fewer accidents and a recovery of investment losses sustained at the end of 2019/20.

Read more: B.C.’s 2019-20 budget battered by COVID-19, deficit expected to climb further

“2020 has been a tough year for families, communities and our economy. I am encouraged by the economic improvement we’re seeing, but I know not everyone has been similarly affected,” Robinson said.

Story continues below advertisement

“We will continue to support people and businesses through this pandemic and into a brighter year with the first vaccinations already arriving in B.C.”

B.C. has promised an ICBC rebate if the public insurer makes a profit with fewer people out driving amid the pandemic. Almost every other jurisdiction in North America has already provided a similar rebate.

Click to play video 'Growing questions about ICBC rates during COVID-19 outbreak' Growing questions about ICBC rates during COVID-19 outbreak
Growing questions about ICBC rates during COVID-19 outbreak – Apr 22, 2020

Any rebate related to COVID-19 would be rolled into an already announced rate rebate expected in May, June or July.

The province is seeing its largest growth in employment, retail sales and housing activity.

Total employment is up to 98.5 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. This is the highest job recovery rate of Canada’s four largest provinces.

B.C.’s unemployment rate for November was 7.1 per cent, up from 5.0 per cent in February before the pandemic took hold around the world.

Story continues below advertisement

The  NDP government is predicting a “partial economic recovery” in 2021.

“The impacts of COVID-19 have been experienced right around the globe, and it’s going to be a while before a fiscal update for B.C. resembles anything like the pre-pandemic province we knew,” Robinson said.

“We are continuing to support British Columbians through this pandemic, and we are making targeted investments like grant and tax relief programs for businesses.”