Global uncertainty prompts rethink of B.C. budget projections: finance minister

VICTORIA — British Columbia is downgrading its economic projections with revised forecasts of lower growth and a reduced budget surplus, citing global economic uncertainty and reduced property and natural resource revenues.

Finance Minister Carole James said Tuesday the reduced forecasts reflect B.C.'s concerns over potential negative economic impacts of trade disputes between the United States and China, tensions about the United Kingdom's planned exit from the European Union and the uncertain status of some global trade agreements and economies.

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Mill closures in B.C.'s forestry industry, dips in commodity exports and declines in property tax revenues are also impacting the province's bottom line, James said Tuesday during a quarterly budget update news conference.

"My job is to make sure we're as well prepared as we can be and that we are in a good fiscal position to be able to weather the economic storm regardless of what it looks like," she said.

B.C.'s economic growth is now forecast at 1.7 per cent this year and 1.9 per cent in 2020, down from earlier projections of 2.4 per cent in 2019 and 2.3 per cent next year, said James. She said the province's budget surplus for 2019-2020 is now predicted to be $179 million, a drop of $95 million from the estimate in February's budget.

"We continue to be on solid footing, being the only province that has the triple-A credit rating, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and zero operating debt," James said.

She said private sector economists expect B.C.'s economy to rank near the top in Canada this year and first in Canada in 2020 despite the reduced economic forecast.

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