New finance minister de Jong says he will balance the books
Having filled a variety of cabinet posts, Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong has negotiated a softwood lumber agreement with the U.S., worked to resolve native land claims and most recently tackled rising medical costs as the health minister.
Now, Premier Christy Clark has named him Finance Minister while the world faces a time of economic uncertainty, and as their governing Liberal Party fights to win back the public trust.
"I'm gratified that the premier has that measure of confidence in me," said de Jong after receiving the prestigious post. "I'm under no illusions about the challenge of the task ahead."
This week the government is scheduled to release a quarterly budget report.
De Jong said the government will be guided by two key principles:
"First, it is of paramount importance to me that we demonstrate respect for the taxpayer," he said.
That means not spending more money than the government has in revenue.
"We are going to balance the budget," he pledges. "It's not going to be easy. It's going to involve some tough decisions."
The second guiding principle will be "family affordability" – finding relief for taxpayers. He conceded there is no detailed answer for what that relief will look like yet, but did not dismiss the idea of an income tax cut.
"Reducing the tax burden families face is always an appropriate objective."
De Jong said he will handle the $40 billion annual budget with values that are "deeply rooted in the soil of Abbotsford," where he said people value fiscal responsibility.
De Jong said last week that he will definitely run in the next election, because he enjoys the work. With the announcement of his new post, he added that the Liberal party has nothing to be ashamed of in its fiscal performance, especially as it relates to the rest of North America.
"For all our warts, all the mistakes we've made, and for our lack of perfection, I'm proud of our record."
In prior cabinet portfolios de Jong has served as minister of health, aboriginal relations, forests, labour, as attorney general and solicitor general.