MSP hike off as real estate lifts B.C. budget surplus

Property transfer tax expected to rake in nearly $1 billion more than planned for 2016

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

The B.C. government has scrapped a planned medical premium increase next year now that the province’s surplus has ballooned to nearly $2 billion.

The red hot real estate market is a big factor behind the improved financial picture detailed in the first quarter budget update released Thursday.

Property Transfer Tax revenues for 2016 are now forecast at $2.1 billion – an increase of $965 million over the budget – with $165 million projected to come from the new 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver homes.

The property transfer tax now far eclipses the $1.2 billion in forecast gambling revenue from the B.C. Lotteries Corp. and is just short of the $2.35 billion B.C. gets from all forestry, natural gas and other resource royalties.

The currently forecast surplus for the year of $1.94 billion is up from $264 million in the budget. And that’s after the province set aside $500 million for new housing priorities and other yet-to-be-announced measures.

“About half the value of the increased revenue from the Property Transfer Tax – $500 million – will be invested in new programs to benefit housing affordability and $400 million will be invested in the B.C. Prosperity Fund as a legacy for future generations,” Finance Minister Mike de Jong said.

The province is forecasting stronger 2.7 per cent economic growth for B.C. for 2016, up 0.3 per cent from budgeted.

The B.C. government now forecasts continued balanced budgets with surpluses of at least $900 million in each of the next two years.

De Jong said the higher revenues have allowed the government to cancel its planned four per cent increase to Medical Services Plan premiums set for Jan. 1 that would have increased costs for an adult by $36 a year.  Premiums will go down four per cent for those who are eligible for premium assistance.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman said the MSP premium freeze is a positive step but no great cause for celebration.

“This comes after 15 years of straight increases, more than doubling it on their watch,” he said. “So we’re not planning a parade for these guys and we still want to see (MSP premiums) scrapped completely.”

Bateman said the B.C. government uses medical premiums, rather than some more direct form of taxation for health care, so it can claim low overall taxes compared to other jurisdictions.

“A family like mine is paying $150 a month in this tax, yet it’s not calculated as part of the overall tax burden by government.”

He said the move to scrap the MSP hike shows the government is feeling pressure on cost-of-living issues.

Bateman also cautioned that revenue from the Property Transfer Tax may have peaked if the foreign buyers tax has indeed cooled what was a frenzied market with record sales and fast price gains.

Just Posted

RED Mountain resort delays opening day

Lack of snow puts damper on start of season

Body found in car at bottom of lake near Needles ferry

Police say at this time no foul play is suspected

West Kootenay traffic officers catch 21 impaired drivers Saturday

Checks in Nelson, Castlegar and Trail were set up as part of a national enforcement campaign

Fast response buoys electric rickshaw plan for Rossland

More than half of fundraising goal met in a few days

CP Holiday Train headed to Castlegar

The festive food bank fundraiser will take place December 12.

VIDEO: Merriam-Webster declares ‘they’ its 2019 word of the year

Declared word of year based on a 313-per-cent increase in look-ups on the company’s search site

Competitive Christmas decorating takes sarcastic turn in Princeton, B.C.

Heather King of Princeton took a creative and stress-free approach to her holiday display this year

RCMP asks Kootenay cannabis shop to remove image of famous Mountie from storefront

Owner happy to comply with RCMP, but wants more information first

BC Ferries adds 170 extra sailings for the holidays

6 a.m. and 10 p.m. sailings added for busy season

Anti-money laundering agency warns casinos to watch gamers playing with bank drafts

Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, issues operational alert

Strata rental bans escape B.C. speculation tax through 2021, Carole James says

Vacant home tax won’t apply to cabins accessible only by water

China hints at national security trials for 2 Canadians detained for one year

The two Canadians’ detention is largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei exec

B.C. seaplane company set to test the first commercial electronic plane

The plane is powered by a 750 horsepower electric motor

Most Read