BY ANDREW WILKINSON
BC Liberal Party Leader
AS 2018 winds down British Columbians have a lot to be thankful for. We live in the best province, in the best country in the world. After years of hard work by the former BC Liberal government, we saw the largest private-sector investment in Canadian history from LNG Canada’s decision to build a major plant in Kitimat. Despite political interference from the government, Site C dam construction is continuing and when complete, it will provide B.C. with clean energy for more than a century. I’m proud of the work the BC Liberals have done for our province and our communities, and creating opportunities for working families. But if we don’t keep working hard, the successes we have seen may face challenges in the future.
The first full budget from the new government this spring was a barrage of tax increases that will see British Columbia businesses and families paying more. The Employer Health Tax (EHT) triples the MSP, something the BC Liberals had budgeted to eliminate completely without any tax increases. Small- and medium-sized business will bear the brunt of this tax burden, paying both EHT and MSP premiums at the same time in 2019. Many municipalities have indicated that property taxes are on their way up to cover the cost of the EHT. Vancouver property taxes are slated to increase by almost 5 per cent next year.
Housing affordability continues to be a serious issue in B.C. and while it remains complex, the frontline solution is to increase supply. Meanwhile, the NDP’s property tax increases make housing less affordable, as does their heavy-handed Speculation Tax. Unfortunately, our province will see a decline in housing starts next year, meaning fewer homes being built for middle-class British Columbians and their families.
Perhaps one of the biggest news stories throughout 2018 has been the constant delays with regard to the Massey Tunnel replacement. When we left government, a plan was in place and the project was ready to move ahead. The NDP put a stop to that after taking power and earlier this month we saw that they intend to continue punishing drivers with no plans to fix the largest bottleneck in the province. The NDP threw away a $100 million investment on a 10-lane bridge and are now promising another decade of delays and frustration.
This year has certainly been a bumpy ride for British Columbians and our economy. It’s going to get bumpier. Families and small business owners will send more of their tax dollars to their local governments to cover higher EHT costs. Thousands of British Columbians will find the Speculation Tax added to their tax bill. Taxpayers will see more of their tax dollars offered up in sweetheart deals for NDP-friendly unions on public infrastructure projects thanks to the NDP’s union benefits agreement. That comes with an added insult for non-union workers, who are banned from working on these projects but forced to help pay the union wages. Families will find life less affordable with 19 new or increased taxes.
Looking back, 2018 is a year the NDP eroded people’s ability to get ahead. My colleagues and I in the BC Liberals will keep fighting this in 2019 as we work hard to push for polices that build opportunity for all of B.C.