Pre-budget story time

B.C.'s finance minister shelved the tradition of buying new shoes to present her budget in favour of reading a story Monday to a group of three- and four-year-old youngsters at a Victoria child care centre.

Carole James said her husband has promised to shine up her favourite pair of shoes for Tuesday's budget, giving her time to read "Pete the Cat" to an attentive group of children.

James said Pete's feline adventures hiking through strawberry fields and mud puddles in white sneakers are somewhat similar to her budget because the journey ends well.

"I think, as you saw in the story, no matter what, it'll all be good in the end," James told reporters attending her pre-budget news conference.

She wouldn't comment directly on whether the budget will be balanced.

Late last year, James forecast a reduced surplus of $190 million for the 2017-2018 budget. But she said economic growth was forecast at 2.9 per cent.

She said tax revenues were down and costs associated with fighting last year's wildfires continued to increase, and were estimated to go beyond $550 million.

The minority New Democrat government's election promises to drop tolls on two Metro Vancouver bridges and cut medical services premiums by 50 per cent are expected to impact the bottom line. Financial difficulties at ICBC. and a rate freeze at B.C. Hydro also place pressure on the budget.

Liberal jobs critic Jas Johal said he wants a budget that respects taxpayers.

"I'm not sure how they are going to pay for all that," he said. "I don't want the province to fall into deficit."

James said her choice of a child-care centre for a pre-budget news conference was more than symbolic because her budget will aim to make life more affordable for B.C. families, with a large focus on child care.

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