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Your chance to balance B.C.'s books

Jan 11 2012

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon unveiled an online "budget simulator" Tuesday that gives British Columbians a chance to try their hand at balancing the province's books.

Falcon hopes the tool will demystify the budget process, give people a bit of insight into the difficult decisions that have to be made and allow the government to assess the public's priorities.

"We want you to have an active opportunity to play a part in how our budget is put together," he says in a video on the My B.C. Budget website at www.gov.bc.ca/mybcbudget.

B.C. is required by law to balance its $44-billion budget in 2013-2014. The latest projections show the government falling $458 million short.

The simulator allows people to punch in different numbers and see the impact of raising taxes or cutting spending as they search for the missing money.

"You'll be able to make your own choices and see how those choices affect the bottom line," Falcon says in the video.

The simulator advises, for example, that a two per cent corporate-tax hike would bring in $33 million. But it also warns that "companies would decide to move to lower-tax jurisdictions, costing B.C. jobs and investment."

Falcon says the simulator is one way that the government is consulting with the public in the lead-up to Budget 2012 in February. Once people use the simulator to balance the books, they can submit their proposed budget to the finance ministry with comments.

But NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said the budget for this year is all but done. He dismissed the online simulator as a gimmick and a poor substitute for real consultation. "He's not listening to anyone," Ralston said. "He's got his mind made up. It's phoney, completely phoney."

lkines@timescolonist.com

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