B.C.’s surplus rises as growth remains stable: finance minister

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is forecasting a growing budget surplus and economic growth that will lead Canada in the coming year despite dropping real estate tax revenues and declining property sales.

The latest budget update released Friday forecasts a budget surplus of $669 million, which is $450 million higher than was projected in February’s budget. Finance Minister Carole James said B.C.’s economic growth projections of 2.2 per cent this year and 1.8 per cent in 2019 are among the highest in Canada.

James said she welcomed the most recent Finance Ministry data showing reduced revenues from property transfer taxes and sales declines since April.

“I truly believe B.C. has to move away from an economy that is built on speculation in real estate to a more sustainable approach,” she said at a news conference.

The financial update for the first three months of the fiscal year includes a decline in property transfer tax revenue of $250 million as property sales dropped by 19.4 per cent from April to June.

Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said he sees jobs losses and a sputtering economy in the near future.

“Carole James is admitting that the only NDP plan is to shrink the real estate part of the economy, reduce the value of peoples’ houses and have a dramatic drop in the construction sector, and nothing is going to change in terms of affordability because prices are staying where they’ve been,” he said.

James said the most recent numbers do not show declines in property prices.

“The biggest risk to B.C.’s economic growth right now, one of the biggest risks, is the issue of unaffordable housing,” she said. “We aren’t able to attract employees. We aren’t able to retain people in business because of the increasing price in housing.”

Last February, the province’s minority NDP government tried to ease the province’s housing crisis with a budget that introduced a new tax on property speculators, higher taxes on foreign home buyers and plans to create 114,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.

James said the government doesn’t control all the factors that relate to housing, including interest rates and mortgages rules, but it does want property prices to moderate and vacancy rates to increase.

The latest financial results “show that the housing market is moderating and we’re seeing strong growth and we’re continuing to see surpluses and we’re continuing to balance the budget,” she said.


B.C.'s surplus rises as growth remains stable: finance minister

Reports: Umpires consider boycott of Serena Williams matches, fearful of being ‘the next Ramos’

As fallout continues from Saturday’s heated U.S. Open final that saw Naomi Osaka defeat Serena Williams in a match marred by conflict and controversy, tennis umpires are having their say.

They’re not pleased with Williams or what they see as a lack of support from the tennis world for chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who was on the receiving end of a heated outburst from the 23-time Grand Slam champion.

Report: Umpires considering boycott

The Times of London reports that there is a growing consensus that umpires feel they were “not supported by the USTA” on several occasions and cite one anonymous source claiming that umpires are considering boycotting matches played by Williams.

The source tells The Times that some umpires believe that Ramos was “thrown to the wolves for simply doing his job and was not willing to be abused for it” and that they are considering “to refuse any match assignments involving Williams until she apologizes for vilifying Ramos and calling him a ‘liar’ and a ‘thief.’”

Williams was assessed three code violations during the the loss to Osaka. Ramos warned her against receiving coaching early in the second set, which Williams protested.

Williams accused Ramos of sexism, called him a thief

A frustrated Williams later smashed her racket and accused Ramos of sexism for assessing penalties that she believes he would not have given to a man. Williams called Ramos a thief and demanded an apology. The third code violation resulted in a game penalty for Williams.

Williams explained her anger in the post-match media conference.

“He never took a game from a man because he said ‘thief,’” Williams said. “For me it blows my mind, but I’m going to continue to fight for women. The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person.”

Williams was later fined $17,000 for her outburst.

Retired umpire: Officials feel ‘abandoned by the WTA’

A former umpire echoed the concerns of The Times’ source with ESPN Tuesday. Richard Ings, a retired elite Gold Badge umpire described as having close ties with active umpires told ESPN that officials feel like the WTA doesn’t have their back.

“The umpiring fraternity is thoroughly disturbed at being abandoned by the WTA,” Ings told ESPN. “They are all fearful that they could be the next Ramos. They feel that no one has their back when they have to make unpopular calls.”

ITA supported Ramos

Ramos did receive the backing of the International Tennis Federation, which released a statement Monday in his support.

“Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis,” the statement reads. “Mr. Ramos’ decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were re-affirmed by the U.S. Open’s decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offenses.”

Ramos speaks

Ramos spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since the match in an interview with Tribuna Expresso in his native Portugal.

“I’m fine, given the circumstances,” Ramos said. “It’s a delicate situation, but a la carte arbitration does not exist. Do not worry about me.”