UPDATE 1-British Columbia projects C$9.7 bln deficit in 2021-22

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VANCOUVER, April 20 (Reuters) - The Canadian province of British Columbia expects its 2021-22 budget deficit to reach C$9.7 billion ($7.69 billion), after closing the last financial year with a projected deficit of C$8.1 billion, budget documents released on Tuesday showed.

The projected deficit for 2020-21 is lower than the previous estimate of C$13.6 billion, the documents showed.

The budget proposes C$67.6 billion in overall spending in the current financial year, including C$3.3 billion in pandemic recovery measures, and assumes real GDP growth of 4.4%, the documents showed.

It will include a near-doubling of subsidized childcare spaces, free public transportation for children under 12 and roughly C$2.2 billion on climate change measures over five years, the documents said.

The budget “builds a bridge to recovery and the better days that are ahead,” Selina Robinson, BC’s minister of finance, told the provincial legislature.

In a briefing with reporters, she noted that COVID-19 variants could still pose a threat to the province’s economic recovery.

$1 = 1.2574 Canadian dollars Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Dan Grebler