The pandemic is taking a heavy toll on B.C.’s finances.

The province says after strong fiscal results in the first three quarters of 2019-20, unforeseen changes led by COVID-19 along with declines in tax revenues and ICBC losses pushed B.C. deep into the red.

The fiscal year ended with a $321 million deficit, which is $595 million lower than the surplus projected in Budget 2019.

However, Finance Minister Carole James said despite the impacts of COVID-19, she is encouraged that B.C. continues to show positive signs, “including improving employment numbers, robust capital spending and the best debt affordability in Canada.”

“The final quarter of the fiscal year brought many challenges,” James said. “B.C. isn’t alone in facing these challenges, but we are in a strong position to weather them. The investments we made in 2019-20, such as eliminating MSP premiums and investing in child care and housing, will make life more affordable and support people through COVID-19 as the province develops a strong economic recovery plan.”

She pointed out the $3.4 billion in increased investments in health, community supports, education and social services, and a historic $4.8 billion in capital spending for hospitals, schools and highways.

James added that B.C. continues to lead the country as the only ‘AAA’ accredited province. Provincial gross domestic product (GDP) for 2019 grew by 2.8 percent, above the national average of 1.7 percent.