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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.”