Finance Minister says Trudeau's deficit plans won't fly in B.C.

British Columbia will continue to balance its budgets, says Finance Minister Mike de Jong. 

Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party of Canada, federal election 2015, Vancouver
Canada's next prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has promised a modest three years of financial deficit. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.

VICTORIA — British Columbia's mayors are expected to jump in line for some of the cash Justin Trudeau's federal Liberals have promised to put toward rebuilding Canada's crumbling infrastructure.

But local politicians looking for the province to match federal funds may be sorely disappointed.

The federal Liberals won 17 seats in B.C. and many of those newly minted MPs may soon join their municipal counterparts in courting cash from Ottawa.

"I expect Mr. Trudeau will work much better with cities than Mr. Harper did. I mean, he'd almost have to," said David Moscrop, a PhD candidate in the political science department at the University of B.C.

Infrastructure will be an interesting file to watch, he said, particularly in Vancouver where there's a need for more public transit but a lack of funding to build it.

"Mayor (Gregor) Robertson was very vocal in the dying days of the campaign, saying the Conservatives were bad for cities and, in particular, bad for infrastructure and that the Liberals were good."

While Trudeau has said he plans to run deficit budgets to rebuild Canada's infrastructure, B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said he expects the province to keep a tight rein on spending as it continues to produce balanced budgets.

"We have been very clear from the outset what our approach to fiscal management is," he said.

"It served B.C. very well and we intend to continue. We have committed, and, in fact, been elected on the pledge of balancing the budget. We've done so for three years in a row and intend to continue to do so."

B.C. does have a wish list for Trudeau's new federal government, however.

The province plans to stress the importance of B.C. and Canada negotiating a new softwood lumber agreement with the United States, de Jong said.

He added that it's too early to comment on Trudeau's campaign promise to halt the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project from Alberta to B.C.'s north coast.

B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton said she expects the province to be consulted on proposed changes the federal government would make to Canada's marijuana laws.

University of B.C. political science Prof. Kathryn Harrison said it will take time to see whether the ties Trudeau stressed with the province during his campaign will translate into action on big priorities, including the environment.

She noted, however, that the prime minister-designate has committed to having an equal number of men and women in his cabinet.

"There are some very strong women who were elected as candidates in British Columbia," Harrison said. "So it will be interesting to see which British Columbians are in the reportedly smaller cabinet to come."

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