Janet Austin, lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, and Premier John Horgan swear in Finance Minister Selina Robinson during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. Robinson is set to provide a new update of British Columbia’s financial status amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Janet Austin, lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, and Premier John Horgan swear in Finance Minister Selina Robinson during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. Robinson is set to provide a new update of British Columbia’s financial status amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. forecasts $13.6 billion deficit; economy to grow three per cent next year

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s deficit forecast has grown and the budget shortfall is now expected to hit $13.6 billion in this fiscal year.

The government predicted in September that the province would end the year with a $12.8 billion deficit.

In February, the government projected a budget surplus of $227 million for 2020-21 but that was before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Finance predicts B.C.’s economy will decline by 6.2 per cent this year, but growth is expected to rebound to three per cent next year.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson said the economy might not perform at pre-pandemic levels until late 2022 or early 2023.

“We’ve been through a year like no other,” Robinson told a news conference on Thursday.

“The path forward remains uncertain.”

Robinson said the government will table its budget on April 20 after legislation was passed on Wednesday night allowing the government to delay its introduction from the traditional date in February.

Documents released by the Finance Ministry show that more than $10 billion has been spent by B.C. on measures related to COVID-19 including almost $2 billion in pandemic relief funds.

Legislation is expected to pass on Thursday that allows for payments of $1,000 to eligible families and $500 to individuals.

Premier John Horgan promised to the pandemic recovery funding during October’s election.