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Ottawa says B.C. owes $625 million


The federal government announced plans to collect over a billion dollars from provinces that it overpaid as a result of incorrect population information.

The payments were based on the preliminary results of the 2001 census. Statistics Canada revised those numbers earlier this year and the federal government discovered that they have been overpaying several provinces since 2000.

Ottawa now wants $625 million in payments back from B.C. from the past three years.

Saskatchewan owes $192 million, and the four Atlantic provinces owe a combined $264 million.

The Yukon was the only province or territory to get paid more money as a result of the revised population numbers, and will receive approximately $23 million extra.

The provinces have five years to pay back the money.

B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins is currently reviewing the reassessment.

Meanwhile, British Columbia is struggling to balance its budget for 2004-2005, but announced a $2.3 billion deficit for 2003-2004 – which may be revised as a result of forest fire costs in the Interior this summer.