FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Peace Region’s two BC Liberal MLAs say they’re concerned about the 2018 Budget tabled by the NDP government, which were also echoed by several organizations across the province.
Peace River North MLA Dan Davies said that the large amount of tax increases that were contained in Tuesday’s budget was especially concerning, especially the increased tax burden on businesses in B.C. Davies specifically cited the NDP’s plan to eliminate MSP premiums by January 1st, 2020, and make up for the loss in revenue with a new plan to implement a payroll tax of 1.95 percent on all business payrolls over $1.5 million. The government said that new tax will bring in $1.9 billion, not quite making up for the $2.6 billion brought in by MSP premiums in 2017.
Davies explained that the increased taxes on businesses will lower the competitiveness of B.C., and the province could see businesses decide to move to other jurisdictions because of the increase in taxes. His concerns were echoed by BC Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Val Litwin. Litwin said in a statement that “this new burden, shifted entirely onto the shoulders of business owners, flies in the face of an innovative economy – a phrase that featured prominently in every Ministers’ mandate letter in July, but very little in today’s speech. This new tax will have a negative effect on growth and investment.”
Both Davies and Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier also expressed concerns about a lack of concrete spending that was announced for rural B.C., adding that the budget seemed to be focused on announcing spending in the Lower Mainland area.
“They didn’t have anything highlighted for specific major four-landing projects around the area,” said Bernier. “There wasn’t a lot in this budget that I see is going to benefit people in this region. Mining and the resource sector wasn’t mentioned once. They hardly had any supports that I saw for agriculture or forestry.”
Meanwhile, BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, whose party’s support is required to keep the minority NDP government in power, had positive things to say about the budget, though he also expressed a concern that climate change was not receiving adequate attention.
“It is encouraging to see such a significant emphasis on child care,” said Weaver in a statement. “This is a core commitment to our Confidence and Supply Agreement and we have been working diligently to consult with the government on how we can best achieve our shared goals. However, we are still concerned that the challenges presented by the emerging economy, and the challenge of climate change in particular are not receiving adequate attention. Without a clear vision and decisive action we risk undermining all of the progress we could make on childcare and housing. Over the coming days and weeks our caucus will be seeking more information from the government about the specifics of their budget policies.”
Other organizations had both positive and negative things to say about the budget.
“This provincial budget shows it is possible to prioritize the wellbeing of our communities and families in tandem with addressing the climate challenge. Investments in wildfire preparedness, energy-efficient social housing, and carbon-tax rebates for lower income households are prime examples.”
– Karen Tam Wu, acting B.C. director at the Pembina Institute.
“This is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and we worry that employees will suffer for it. It was good that the government committed to axing the unfair MSP health tax, but they are now pinning it on employers who will have to find that money somewhere. Employers don’t have a magical pot of money to hand to government and they will do things like freezing wages, halting hiring and ceasing expansion. That punishes growth and innovation. If the BC government could take the ICBC anchor off its neck, this budget would be much more buoyant. It would be a relief to change ICBC into a co-op, putting it into the hands of drivers who choose it and opening it up to competition.”
– Kris Sims, BC Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“Mineral exploration and development provide real and significant socio-economic opportunities and benefits to communities and First Nations in all regions of B.C., and are essential to discovering the metals and minerals required for a low-carbon future. The mining flow-through share program, as extended for a one-year term in today’s budget is one component of reinforcing B.C.’s competitiveness on the world stage.” This incentive allows individuals who invest in flow-through shares to claim a non-refundable tax credit of 20% of their B.C. flow-through expenditures.”
– Edie Thome, President & CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration.
“The new BC budget’s focus on housing and universal childcare will benefit many of BC’s public school teachers. BC has several thousand young teachers who were hired following our Supreme Court of Canada win. They and many others will benefit from the start of a new affordable childcare program. This budget’s overall focus on affordability will help recruit qualified teachers from other provinces to BC to help address our province’s ongoing teacher shortage.”
– Glen Hansman, President of the B.C. Teachers Federation.
“This budget puts the economy on autopilot – it offers nothing for how to grow prosperity, how to get to yes on major projects, or how to attract investment to B.C. In fact, its tax hikes hinder that effort. With a razor-thin surplus dependent on a lot of things going right, B.C. taxpayers should be alarmed that the NDP Government has stopped paying attention to growing the economy. The only workforce and industry support mentioned by the Finance Minister were $18 million for arts grants and $29 million for agriculture. There’s another $144 million from the federal government for employment programs, but you can’t help but think Ottawa might be hesitant to cut that cheque right now.”
– Jordan Bateman, Communications Director of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.
“We want to build B.C. better, and this budget will help us get there. The significant capital investment of $15.8 billion over three years and support for apprentices and women in trades will not only benefit our industry but the province as a whole through a legacy of skills training and employability. BCBT affiliates invest more than $18 million annually in apprenticeship and training to ensure our members do their best work, and do it safely. We expect these same high standards at every institution and welcome any measures that achieve that goal.”
– Dave Holmes, President of the BC Building Trades Council.
“Our economy grows when businesses are supported, taxes remain competitive with global competitors such as the US, and businesses are optimistic about hiring and investing. Given this government’s emphasis on innovation and the ’emerging economy’, we expected to see a more holistic plan put in place for the reduction of red tape that has always proven to spur growth and, for example, more incentives to drive innovation and early adoption of new technologies.”
– Val Litwin, President & CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.