British Columbia sets budget, eyes Olympic costs

Tue Mar 2, 2010 6:36pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VICTORIA, British Columbia (Reuters) - British Columbia unveiled a 2010-11 budget that includes a C$1.7 billion ($1.64 billion) deficit on Tuesday, and said it is keeping a close eye on whether it will have to cover any unexpected costs from the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The Liberal provincial government said the budget for the fiscal year that begins in April 1 will be C$40.6 billion, and that it is confident that the 2009-10 budget, which had to be revised midway through the year, will end up with the C$2.8 billion deficit it forecast earlier.

The government said it expects a return to budget surpluses in three years.

British Columbia had agreed to spend C$765 million to help host the Olympics, which ended on Sunday, including setting aside C$79 million for any unexpected costs.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen acknowledged there are "pressures" on that fund. "We are not expecting them to be so great that it will be considerably above that," he said.

Games organizers had a largely privately funded C$1.7 billion operating budget, but the event was hit with weather problems that forced snow to be trucked to one venue and the cancellation of thousands of tickets.

Merchandise sales, however, were higher than expected during the Games, which received wide international acclaim after a rough start.

Organizers are still finalizing some contracts, including one to compensate the Whistler ski resort for any business it lost by holding alpine and sliding competitions there, so the full cost of the Games may not be known until early summer.   Continued...