By New Democrat MLA Harry Bains
This year, British Columbians will face staggering tax hikes.
They will pay more to heat their homes, drive their cars, access health care, and travel by ferry.
That’s bad news for families. Family budgets will suffer as the cost of living takes another jump in a province that is already too expensive. They will pay more in medical premiums for every member of their family. They will pay more to insure their cars. They will pay more to keep the lights on. And if they live in a ferry-dependent community, they will pay more for basic, everyday travel.
It’s also bad news for businesses. If they help pay their employees’ medical service premiums, they will see their costs rise. If they pay for heat, they will see a hit to their bottom line.
It’s clear taxes are on the rise in B.C. But this Liberal government is hiding behind political slogans rather than taking action.
While Premier Christy Clark told media her government would not be “going out to taxpayers and asking them for more money,” her budget told a very different story.
Over the next three years, the average family will pay close to $900 more in hydro and medical premiums alone. And in the course of those three years, people in this province will give this government $4.4 billion in hikes to hidden taxes and fee increases.
That’s including $1.2 billion in increases that are specifically labeled as taxes in this year’s budget documents, and a new mining permit tax, which promises to drive many smaller exploration companies out of the province.
Despite this clear evidence that taxes are on the rise, after releasing the budget the premier told media, “We said we weren’t going to increase taxes, we didn’t increase taxes.”
It’s clear the premier is saying one thing, but doing another. The truth is: people in this province will be paying more and getting less for years to come.
They will pay more for the medical services tax, but the Liberal government has failed to address our overcrowded emergency rooms, and is refusing to honour the health care promises it made during the election.
And people will pay more for ferries at a time when the government has announced reckless cuts to ferry services up and down the coast, with some routes losing a third of their sailings.
At the same time, across the province, people are struggling to make ends meet. For a decade, our province has had the highest rate of child poverty in the country. But instead of addressing the serious problem of affordability, this government is making life harder for everyone.
In the last 13 years, this government has stood by while taxes and fees soared.
Since 2001, hydro rates have gone up by 51 per cent, and over the next five years, they will go up by another 28 per cent. This is a direct result of mismanagement at B.C. Hydro, where the government gave sweetheart deals to their private power friends that force the province to buy power we don’t need at exorbitant rates, and sell at peak periods for far less.
At the same time, medical services tax has risen by 92 per cent. That means the average family is paying $798 more every year. And rates for basic ICBC vehicle insurance have risen by 33 per cent, and will continue to rise by at least 3 per cent this year.
Meanwhile, post-secondary education has moved farther out of reach for many British Columbians. Tuition fees have doubled and the Liberal government eliminated needs-based student grants.
Ferry fares have doubled on many routes since 2001, and in the first four months of this year, they will rise another 7.5 per cent.
At the same time, the Liberal government is continuing to mismanage our economy, despite their promises to eliminate debt and create jobs – our province has the worst rate of job creation in the country, and the government plans to add $7 billion to the debt in the next three years alone. Premier Clark has already presided over the fastest debt increase in BC history: $16.4 billion in the past three years.
The B.C. Liberal government must stop pretending it can solve B.C.’s problems with political slogans. As people across this province face years of tax hikes they can’t afford, what we need are solutions.