Anger grows over BC Liberals' failure to see crisis
In the lead up to the provincial election, B.C. politicians insisted the financial picture was fine. But were they being frank?
In February, the government posted a budget deficit of $495 million but the worldwide financial crisis kept worsening.
Still, during the election, more than two months later, B.C. politicians kept insisting things were on track even though they knew revenues were crashing.
"Our budget that we brought in in February is a solid budget. We will perform to that budget," Premier Gordon Campbell said at the time.
Behind the scenes, the budget was falling apart. On May 12, election day, government revenues had fallen by $1.1 billion.
Yet weeks later, politicians were still maintaining everything was fine.
"We will have a deficit that will be no larger than what we tabled in February," Finance Minister Colin Hansen said June 10.
It wasn't until July, two months after the election, that the government admitted there was trouble.
The B.C. deficit has now grown nearly six times larger than promised - to a record $2.8 billion.
"No one pays the consequences except the people of British Columbia and that's what makes me so angry," said NDP leader Carole James.
Helmut Pastrick, chief economist of Central 1 Credit Union says he believed it would be difficult for the province to keep its deficit below $495 million.
"I thought it was not likely to be achieved," he said Thursday.
Pastrick wrote in his economic forecast at the time that the deficit would be in the order of $1 billion to $1.5 billion.
His report was widely available. But during the campaign, Campbell insisted the deficit would be $495 million "maximum."
The same day he made that promise, April 23, another top economist, Jock Finlayson, gave a speech "Tough Times - Coming to Terms with Recession."
"A small province like B.C. the government doesn't have direct control of revenue. It's probably wise to give yourself more of a forecast allowance and cushion around any budget target," he said.
But the budget was not revised, and the promises kept coming.
"They were in election mode," Pastrick said.
With files from CTV British Columbia's Jim Beatty and Shannon Paterson