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Wildfire costs drive B.C. deficit projection to $6.7 billion

B.C. has spent nearly $1 billion fighting wildfires this year, contributing to a higher projected deficit of $6.7 billion for 2023-24.

In presenting the first quarter outlook today, Finance Minister and Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy said that is an increase of $2.5 billion from when she delivered her budget in February.

In addition to record wildfire spending of $966 million, she blamed volatile natural gas prices, leading to a drop in royalties the government earns.

However, Conroy said the province’s economy is proving “resilient” despite a devastating wildfire season, high interest rates, and a slowing global economy. She indicated no plans to tighten the purse strings.

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“B.C. is in a good position to weather global uncertainties as well as keep people safe through this wildfire season and drought,” Conroy said.

She added while it is difficult to predict how much wildfires will cost in any given year, the government budgets a base amount and sets aside contingencies.

The base amount has gone up since severe fire years in 2017 and 2018, in part because many BC Wildfire employees now work year-round, doing mitigation work when they aren’t fighting fires directly, Conroy said.

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