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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.

“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.

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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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