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B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

British Columbia’s Treasury Secretary says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat administration’s initial budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will be filing Tuesday.

Selina Robinson said her skills as a good listener and relationship builder were valuable and necessary to put together a budget during the ongoing period of pandemic turmoil.

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that the impact of the pandemic on BC’s economy remained uncertain, but the budget deficit was estimated at $ 13.6 billion.

The last budget, filed in February 2020, just as the first COVID-19 cases of BC were diagnosed, predicted three years of modest surpluses, including a $ 227 million surplus for 2020-2021.

“What I can say is that it will be a budget deficit,” Robinson said in an interview Saturday.

“We have been very aware of how to make decisions for British Columbians so that we can have a path forward that will bring us back into balance through and in the years to come. We are determined to rebalance.”

‘Trained as a listener’

Robinson, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, said she relied on her experience working with families to create a budget that reflects the concerns and future wishes of BC residents during the pandemic era.

“I was trained to look at the dynamics between people and to build relationships,” said Robinson. “I have found that training has helped me considerably in my job. I have also been trained as a listener, which has also helped in listening to British Columbians, to different groups, listening to my colleagues.”

British Columbia Treasury Secretary Selina Robinson in a 2018 file photo. Robinson will submit the budget on Tuesday. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

She said listening to business groups, social advocates and families has formed the overarching focus of the budget, which is aimed at helping the province weather the pandemic and look ahead to economic recovery.

“We don’t want to leave people behind,” said Robinson.

“We want to make sure all children have enough food in their bellies. We want to make sure that companies can plan a future where they can grow their businesses. We want people to have health and safety in their communities.”

‘This has never been done before’

The former housing minister was appointed to the financial portfolio last fall following the NDP’s election victory in October.

Robinson said she immediately realized that the budget, delayed from its traditional February release, should face the challenge of the pandemic head-on.

“I thought, this has never been done before,” she said.

“How do you build a budget where you are still dealing with the pandemic and need to care for people, make their health and safety a priority, and start planning and building recovery?”

Selina Robinson, BC’s Treasury Secretary, says people need additional shifts during COVID-19. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

The budget is designed to care for people during the pandemic as they prepare for a recovery from COVID-19, Robinson said.

“If we can hold on tight, keep our circles low, go through the vaccination process quickly, then we can go into the recovery phase,” she said.

‘People need the services. They need the medical support. They need mental health care. They have to make sure they get through this pandemic. ‘

Critics say change is needed

The opposition liberals, who have criticized the NDP’s pandemic relief effort as slow and unfocused, say the budget needs an economic recovery plan that includes commitments for major infrastructure projects such as the replacement of the George Massey tunnel in Metro Vancouver.

“This NDP government has delayed numerous vital infrastructure projects since taking office, making it clear that, despite what they may say, these projects have not been prioritized, and it is time for that to change,” liberal transportation critic Michael Lee said in a statement. statement.

The BC branch of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives is also calling for more infrastructure spending on transit, education and housing, but says investment in mental health and care programs for children and the elderly is paramount.

The BC arm of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives is calling for more infrastructure spending on transit, education and housing. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Robinson said the budget is intended to build strength to lay the foundation for future recovery.

“There are absolutely countless challenges ahead of us and we are making sure that we can support people, support businesses, support communities, so we can all get where we want to get,” she said.

“Some might say that’s fantasy thinking, but that’s why we all work together.”

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