Liquor distribution warehouses and unused lands were held up in Tuesday’s budget as some of the assets the province is willing to trade-off for a shot at financial solvency.
So it’s only fitting the site near a defunct, Okanagan whiskey distillery will be put up for sale as the local contribution to provincial “prudence”—a word repeated often by Finance Minster Kevin Falcon during this year’s budget announcement.
“Now the new provincial jail has been announced for the area around Oliver, the land the province owns on the border of Lake Country is no longer necessary,” said MLA Norm Letnick, adding local context to the provincial budget.
“The government has determined that it will be put up for sale as well as other sites around the province.”
There’s an estimated $700 million worth of lands across the province that the government deemed devoid of strategic benefit, other than an immediate revenue generator.
As they liquidate, said Letnick, the benefits could continue to radiate out into the community, as investment dollars turn into jobs and further economic development.
Spurring further economic growth in the Okanagan, he added, are more immediate measures aimed at helping Kelowna’s flagging home-building industry.
First-time home buyers are eligible for a tax credit of up to $10,000 if they buy or build a new home in B.C. between Feb. 21 and April 1, 2013.
There’s also a Seniors Home Renovation Tax Credit that amounts to up to $1,000, annually.
Combined with a previous announcement that the government will raise its new-housing HST rebate threshold to $850,000 from $525,000, Letnick predicts a bounce-back in the industry that accounts for around 18 per cent of the local jobs.
“Every member of the Okanagan caucus has been holding discussions with the ministers for over a year on this issue,” he said.
“It’s been communicated to us by the development and real estate industry (that the HST) has acted as a damper on sales. It’s our hope that we’ll see a stronger residential market, which has multiplier impacts on new furniture, electronic sales, so many other trades and real estate and trades professions.”
Although there were a few highlights for Okanaganites, the budget on a whole was aimed at keeping the status quo as economic powerhouses across the globe work out their own issues. Spending on sectors like health and education has been curbed from years past. There is a growing allotment, but it’s said not to meet the cost growth.
Medical-Service Premiums and tobacco taxes, are om the rise and an anticipated tax cut for small businesses was scrapped. a
They also offered the first corporate-tax hikes—one per cent— since the B.C. Liberal Party came to power in 2001, and announced a pretty hefty deficit.
Projecting a shortfall of $968 million this fiscal year —a surplus is expected in the following two years—and economic growth of a mere 1.8 per cent, some critics have said the Liberals have changed their political stripes but Letnick said he wasn’t discouraged.
He said he believed Falcon delivered “a responsible budget, (reminiscent) of a social credit budget.”
“It’s not not acceptable for governments to run up large deficits and put a lot of debt on future tax payers,” said Letnick. It’s no longer the way governments should operate. I’m really pleased to see it’s an hold the line on spending budget.”
He was also pleased to see the government look inward in their quest for prudence.
“All crown corporations will have to look at their executive salaries,” he said. “People are struggling to make better lives for families, then we see large bonuses. That didn’t sit will with me and I’m happy to see the finance minister was of the same mind.”