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No solid numbers to gauge flood damage repair costs, says B.C. finance minister

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VICTORIA — British Columbia's finance minister says it's still too early to put a price tag on the cleanup and repairs ahead after recent floods and landslides in the southern part of the province.

Selina Robinson said the repair bill for the infrastructure loss may affect the government's bottom line after she met Friday with the Economic Forecast Council, a 13-member private-sector group that is giving her advice before she creates next year's budget.

"We don't have the full details as of yet and so we're waiting for the Ministry of Transportation and others as they identify ... and understand what the full impacts are so that we can have a sense of how much budget is going to be required to address the rebuild that is going to be necessary," she said at a news conference.

The lack of hard data and preliminary damage estimates also contributed to the "mixed bag" of estimates from the private forecasters, who had differing views on the scale of the flood impact on the province's budget, Robinson said.

Successive storms that battered southern B.C. with record amounts of rainfall caused floods, slides and washouts that crippled vital transportation routes, deluged agricultural operations and forced thousands of people from their homes.

Robinson said the budget she tables in February will have the government's latest financial numbers.

"What I can say just about the flooding response right now is we are gathering the information that we need to understand what the full scale is and so I don't have any solid numbers as of today," she said.

The council has forecasted that the province's economy will grow by 5.3 per cent in 2021 and 4.2 per cent in 2022, which is above the national GDP estimates of 4.9 and 4.1 per cent, respectively.

B.C.'s economy shrank in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the 3.4 per cent decline was smaller than originally projected.

Robinson predicted a 2020-21 budget deficit of $1.7 billion last month, although the projection did not incorporate damage from the series of storms that hit the province.

The government's previous deficit projection released in September was $4.8 billion, which was also down from its original deficit forecast of $9.7 billion last spring.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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