B.C. sees “improved economic outlook” in province’s first 2021 quarterly finance report

Real GDP growth for the year has been upgraded to 6% from 4.4%

Finance Minister Selina Robinson | Flickr

B.C. is seeing an improved financial outlook for the first quarter of this year, with significantly higher revenue, lower deficit and better economic growth projections than in previous pandemic periods.

That is the finding of the first quarterly B.C. Finance Ministry report for the current fiscal year, released this morning by Finance Minister Selina Robinson. The ministry, however, cautioned that the situation with COVID-19 is constantly evolving – and what was captured in the first quarterly report may still be the case.

“It is good news, but at the same time I want to iterate, as I have many times before, that uncertainty remains as a result of the pandemic and the global response,” Robinson said. “Recent increases in COVID-19 numbers may impact our current or future forecast.”

Still, several numbers are encouraging. Robinson said the province’s real GDP growth for the year has been upgraded to 6% from the 4.4% figure planned in the budget.

Property transfer tax revenue, also, was $277 million higher in Q1 versus what was originally projected in the budget, and the province thus has updated its overall revenue levels for the item this year to reach $2.335 billion – up significantly from the $1.975 billion assumed in the budget.

Robinson said the housing market has been “supercharged” at times in the province, with sales peaking in March and remaining elevated despite gradually decreasing since then.

Officials confirmed that a second quarterly report will come this fall, followed by a more detailed breakdown of the province’s financial performance and projections next year with B.C.’s 2022 budget.

Robinson did note that, while the numbers and forecasts are encouraging, recovery has been – and will continue to be – uneven. While exports, retail sales, housing and labour markets are all recovering, revenue from international travel is down 94.7% for June, and spending on travel services, live events and other entertainment items such as move theatres remain weak.

The province also already surpassed $500 million in its wildfire fighting spending this year, with the total yearly projected spending to reach $881 million for the whole year.