On February 19, 2019, British Columbia issued its 2019 budget, which the provincial government stated is “the largest infrastructure investment in B.C.’s history”.

TAXPAYER-SUPPORTED CAPITAL INVESTMENT

B.C.’s 2019 budget includes new capital investment commitments in the healthcare, transportation and education sectors, with the taxpayer-supported infrastructure spending on hospitals, schools, post-secondary facilities, transit and roads forecast to be C$20.1-billion over a three-year fiscal plan. Key taxpayer-supported projects highlighted as part of the current and planned investments include:

  • Education: In the education sector, the 2019 B.C. budget forecasts to invest C$2.7-billion over the three-year fiscal plan to support major replacement, renovation, expansion and maintenance projects in K-12 facilities, and a further C$3.3-billion on capital projects for post-secondary institutions. A key highlight is the C$450-million allocated for a student housing loan program over six years to build approximately 5,000 new student housing beds for the province’s post-secondary institutions.
  • Healthcare: The 2019 B.C. budget looks to invest C$4.4-billion over the three-year fiscal plan to support major construction projects and upgraded health facilities, medical and diagnostic equipment and information management/technology systems, with investments supported by the province and other sources (including regional hospital districts and foundations). Key projects noted in the 2019 budget include:
    • Phase 1 of the Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment in relation to which construction commenced in early 2017
    • Phase 2 of the Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment where the procurement started in fall 2018, with construction planned to commence in 2020
    • The new St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in relation to which procurement is planned to commence in fall 2019 and construction is planned to commence in fall 2020.
  • Transportation: An investment of C$6.6-billion over the three-year fiscal plan is forecast in order to “maintain the flow of people and goods” in B.C. Transportation projects highlighted in the 2019 budget include:
    • Building the Broadway subway in Vancouver
    • Replacing the Pattullo Bridge with a new four-lane bridge
    • Interim safety and reliability improvements to the George Massey Tunnel.

However, in relation to the transportation projects, the budget flags that the timing of capital spending is subject to several factors including funding from the federal government and market conditions.

SELF-SUPPORTED CAPITAL INVESTMENT

In addition, another C$11-billion of self-supported capital investment (from BC Hydro, the Columbia River power projects, BC Railway Company, ICBC, BCLC and the Liquor Distribution Branch) is projected over the fiscal plan period. Self-supported capital investments include:

  • C$10.3-billion (that is, approximately 94 per cent of the self-supported capital spending) will be used for electrical generation, transmission and distribution projects (including the construction of a third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River through the Site C Clean Energy project), and the purchase of Fortis Inc.’s partnership interest in the expansion facility at the Waneta Dam
  • C$300-million will be used for BCLC projects, including the replacement of key legacy business systems, an expansion of the lottery distribution network and the acquisition of gaming equipment to support various activities
  • C$172-million to be used for ICBC projects, including investment in information technology and facility maintenance and upgrades
  • C$180-million to be invested by the Liquor Distribution Branch for costs related to the Liquor Distribution Branch Warehouse project, liquor store improvements, cannabis store expansion and technology-related projects.

OTHER INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITMENTS

In addition, as part of the provincial government’s stated “investing in communities” objective, the 2019 budget includes additional funding targeted at infrastructure development, including a Northern Capital and Planning Grant, which pledges C$100-million in 2018/19 to 26 local governments along the liquefied natural gas (LNG) corridor and near Kitimat to assist in meeting their current and future infrastructure needs.

SUMMARY

B.C.’s 2019 budget includes significant capital investment in both ongoing and new social infrastructure and energy projects, which is consistent with the position of the Minister of Finance Carole James that “to build a strong economy, we need a strong foundation”.

That said, the budget also flags key factors that may impact the capital investment, in particular in relation to the transportation sector investment where federal funding and market conditions are highlighted as factors that may influence the timing for new investment and the realization of the provincial government’s pledges for historic investment in B.C.’s economy.