Dix considers axing B.C.'s balanced budget law
VICTORIA -- NDP Leader Adrian Dix says if he's elected premier, he'll consider getting rid of British Columbia's balanced budget legislation.
Dix said Thursday he doesn't like the Liberal government's budget law, saying it's better to have the goal of balancing the budget rather than having a law that has to be repealed every time the books are inconveniently in the red.
"We've seen over the past four years it's kind of a Monty Python sketch, you know we have a balanced budget law and we never balance the budget," he said.
"We haven't had a balanced budget this term, so I'd rather have a balanced budget than balanced budget laws."
Dix made his balanced budget comments to reporters following a speech to municipal politicians at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
"For a government that argues you shouldn't over-regulate, isn't' it kind of the height of absurdity to have a balanced budget law when you don't have a balanced budget?" said Dix.
The Liberals brought in their balanced budget legislation in 2001 and amended it in 2009 to permit two deficit budgets. The Liberals delivered balanced budgets from 2003 until 2008.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong said he's concerned that one of Dix's first political promises involves getting rid of a law that seeks to keep the province's finances in line.
"It's troubling," said de Jong.
"Even before being in a position to potentially govern, Mr. Dix and the NDP are saying those rudimentary rules of not spending more than you take in shouldn't apply to an NDP government."
He said he was also concerned Dix never put forward any plans on how he would enable B.C.'s economy to grow.
Earlier this month, de Jong delivered a quarterly report that included an increased deficit forecast due to huge declines in natural gas revenues.
De Jong said his government is sticking to its amended budget law that calls for balanced books in 2013-14, but he added it wasn't going to be easy.
The province has announced a government-wide hiring freeze and plans to curtail spending.
He said the goal of an NDP government under his leadership would be to balance the books, but governments need to take into consideration revenues, which can fluctuate drastically, as is currently occurring with natural gas.
Dix told the UBCM delegates he wants to take name-calling and personality issues out of B.C. politics, but he started off his speech with a jab at the Liberals for not holding a fall session.
"It's great that MLA's can get together in the fall," said Dix as he pointed out the many NDP MLAs who were in the audience. "The legislature isn't sitting in the fall and I think that's too bad."
He drew applause from municipal leaders for saying they deserve more control over location and development of mountain resorts and over whether to accept public-private partnerships in their communities.
He also told the packed room that British Columbia should have more say on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, but rapped what he called the government's late interest in the mega-project.