Employer health, speculation taxes will put heavy strain on province: BC Liberal leader

New levies will hurt local governments, Andrew Wilkinson tells B.C. municipal leaders

British Columbia’s NDP government is hurting the province by imposing taxes without consultation and misleading voters on the proportional representation referendum, Liberal Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson charged Sept. 13.

Wilkinson called “arbitrary” both the Employer Health Tax (EHT) to replace Medical Services Plan payments and the real estate speculation tax.

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The province pitched the tax in its February budget as a method of “tackling speculation, curbing demand, increasing housing supply and improving security for renters.”

The tax will start at 0.5 per cent of 2018 assessed property value and rise to two per cent after that.

The levy would apply to unoccupied or unrented second homes in the regional districts of Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Victoria and Nanaimo, and the municipalities of Kelowna and West Kelowna.

And, Finance Minister Carole James said Sept. 12, the tax legislation will be presented to the Legislature in October.
Wilkinson said the EHT would cost local governments heavily.

He cited the rise in medical costs for Oak Bay going from $83,000 to $450,000, and Prince George from $330,000 to $1.6 million.

Those costs will be paid for through layoffs, program cuts or higher taxes, he said.

“How does the NDP expect you to come up with that? Wilkinson asked.

Wilkinson called the speculation tax “phony,” saying it puts British Columbians’ homes and family cabins at risk.

Further, he charged, the tax could hurt efforts to manage the housing crisis as projects don’t get built.

‘Stacked’ vote

Wilkinson accused the NDP of “deliberately misleading” voters on the upcoming proportional representation referendum.

He said the change would create ridings the size of Ireland or Denmark, and that there will be “no more electing your MLA by name.”

“You will be told your MLA’s name by a party boss.”

Wilkinson claimed the referendum is aimed at keeping the Green Party onside so the NDP remains in power.

“The NPD has stacked this referendum,” he said.

Climate priority

Green leader Andrew Weaver spoke Sept 12, focusing solely on climate change and what British Columbians can do to fight it.

“You and I, as elected officials, will either be complicit in allowing climate change to despoil our world – or we can lead the way and choose a new future,” the climate scientist-turned-politician told UBCM delegates.

“If global emissions do not start to dramatically decline in the next few years many millions of people, including British Columbians, will be at risk from heat waves, drought, floods, storms, and wildfires. Our coasts and cities will be threatened by rising sea levels,” he said.

Weaver said B.C. could capitalize on the situation as a living destination of choice and a place of abundant resources.

We have a highly skilled and educated workforce,” he said. “We have access to renewable resources — energy, water, and wood — like no other jurisdiction. We have incredible potential to create a clean, renewable energy sector to sustain our growing economy.”

Weaver said the Greens have been working with the NDP to develop a provincial clean growth strategy.

He said it must be a strategy combining climate policy as an economic strategy.

“I’m afraid there are no easy fixes,” he said. “Dealing with global warming requires us to challenge ourselves to be bold and fundamentally reconstruct core structures of our economy and energy system.”

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