Provincial surplus reflects speedy economic recovery from pandemic

Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance for the Province of B.C., reports a $1.3 billion surplus for 2021-22.
Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance, in reporting on the 2021-22 fiscal year, said the B.C. Government's record investments ensured "targeted supports were available to those who needed them most." Photo: BCGov/Flickr

The B.C. Government has announced a $1.3 billion surplus as it closes out the 2021-22 fiscal year, saying the surplus reflects both a faster-than-expected economic recovery and record government investments.

The budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year was prepared during the first winter of the pandemic, at a time when COVID-19 vaccines were not yet widely available, gatherings were limited and restaurants were closing.

The BC Vaccine Card was nine months away and conversations about global inflation had not yet begun.

Spending to support people increased by $3.5 billion over the record levels from fiscal year 2020-21, as government continued to make investments in people, businesses and communities.

The B.C. government releases Public Accounts every summer to provide people with an accounting of provincial revenues and expenses from the previous fiscal year.

In their latest Public Accounts report, they say the 2021-22 fiscal year saw a 6.2% growth in B.C. real gross domestic product (GDP), better than the national average growth of 4.9%, while the province’s unemployment rate, at 6.5%, was also lower than the national rate of 7.5%.

At 17.9% they say their taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest in Canada, while their credit rating continues to rank among the highest out of all provinces.

Investments of $6 billion were made in taxpayer-supported infrastructure, to build schools, roads, public transit and hospitals – an increase of $574 million from the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Spending on pandemic and recovery programs totalled $3.8 billion in 2021-22; these included the Business Recovery Grant program and $100 million to the tourism industry, allowing municipalities to adapt and diversify their tourism infrastructure, and to support local Indigenous tourism businesses.

Support was available for 14,000 restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, gyms and fitness centres, with more than $50 million through Circuit Breaker Business Recovery Grants.

Alongside skills training, community infrastructure, CleanBC and supports for vulnerable populations, including meals and temporary housing, government also invested in services they describe as “crucial to protect the health, safety and livelihoods of all British Columbians.”

Taxpayer-supported debt increased by $2.6 billion in 2021-22. This amount includes $4.1 billion to fund capital investments for future program delivery, while the operating debt was reduced by $1.5 billion.

Self-supported debt increased by $975 million, mainly for investments in power projects. The key measure of taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ended the year at 17.9%, significantly lower than the 22.8% forecast in Budget 2021.

“These numbers show that the actions taken by British Columbians to protect each other and that our unprecedented investments to support people were the right decisions,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance. “Looking ahead, the Province will keep using this economic strength to support British Columbians, including bringing in new measures in September to help those who are struggling the most with global inflation.”