British Columbia's financial status will not be as rosy as it has been over the past year, says Finance Minister Katrine Conroy, who will table the New Democrat government's budget on Tuesday.

Conroy suggested Monday that deficits are now in the province's future following last year's budget where a surplus of almost $6 billion was projected and saw the government spend on affordability, infrastructure and housing initiatives.

"We're thinking that we'll probably have some deficits in the coming years," she said. "This is a bit of an anomaly, this year's surplus, and we will be announcing the direction we are moving in. We know that things probably aren't going to be quite as rosy."

Conroy held a pre-budget news conference at a Victoria-area elementary school where she served a lunch of meat loaf, salad and desserts to students in grades 1 and 5, noting that government support helps fund similar meal programs at schools across B.C.

"Programs like this are so important and vital to the health and well-being of students," she said. "That's why we want to continue to invest in programs like this in budget 2023."

Conroy said the budget will include investments in health care, public safety and communities.

She said the government intends to continue spending the remaining surplus it has until the end of the fiscal year on March 31, with any leftover money going to help pay down the provincial debt.

"We believe that the surplus money we're spending right now is money we're spending on people," said Conroy. "We're spending on helping people. We're spending on ensuring people get the supports and services they need."

Premier David Eby said recently budgets are about choices, and the government's budget will reflect priorities that help people.

Finance minister @KatrineConroy suggests #budget deficits on way for B.C. after surplus. #BCPoli

He said affordable housing and expanded access to health care, including investments in mental health and addiction treatment, will be focus areas of the budget.

In recent days, Eby announced a second government affordability credit to help people offset inflation costs and a one-time $500-million pledge to BC Ferries to reduce the prospect of rising fares.

Since taking office, Eby has introduced initiatives amounting to $2 billion in affordability measures, $1 billion towards municipal infrastructure projects and $500 million toward protecting rental housing.

He said B.C.'s economy is one of the strongest in Canada and the government intends to continue to invest in areas that help people.

Opposition Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said he's expecting the government to continue spending in the new budget, but without strategic overview or focus on results.

The B.C. Greens called on the government to spend $1 billion on provincial Transit to improve public transit service across the province.

The Greens earlier called for a tax break to help businesses shift to a four-day work week pilot project and for increases in disability rates.

Conroy, who represents a Kootenay-area riding, said the budget will not forget rural B.C., although she didn't elaborate.

While the tradition for finance ministers is to buy a new pair of shoes to wear when presenting the budget, Conroy said she’s a frugal person and has decided to polish an old pair to wear instead.

Last year, B.C.'s budget was forecast to post a $5.5-billion deficit, but a faster-than-projected economic recovery, updated federal income tax revenue data and improving natural resource revenues pushed the figure to a surplus near $6 billion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2023.

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