John Cummins, leader of the BC Conservative party addressed a small gathering in Smithers last week, touching on several items in the Conservative platform, especially taxes.
“The reality is, in British Columbia, the average family pays more taxes than they do in any province west of Quebec,” Cummins said.
“We pay more taxes here than they do in NDP-run Manitoba.”
In his calculations, Cummins included medical services plan premiums as a tax, and monies withdrawn from ICBC and BC Hydro that are placed into government coffers.
“All of these are taxes,” he said.
Compounding matters, are the lower average incomes earned by B.C. residents, compared to provinces west of Quebec.
The solution, Cummins said, was to attract employers, such as the resource-based sectors, offering high-wage jobs, and enable them to move ahead to provide the jobs the province needs.
“There are all sorts of mines that are prepared to go ahead but they can’t get the provincial OK,” Cummins said.
“We have to move ahead more quickly.”
Cummins also said the BC Conservatives are committed to eliminating the carbon tax, citing its impact on the cost of transportation which in turn effects the cost of goods and services, particularly in northern British Columbia.
“It’s a huge deterrent to doing business in the north,” he said.
“It’s an unfair tax.”
The carbon tax might make sense for residents in the Lower Mainland where public transit is well developed, but that option is not available in northern B.C., Cummins said.
The combined effect of the higher taxes and lower average wages, Cummins argued, is a net movement of residents out of the province, seeking better jobs and a better life elsewhere.
“British Columbia is not an attractive place to be,” Cummins said.
“We have to turn that around.”
The provincial carbon tax is designed as a neutral tax, the funds raised are returned to residents of B.C. in the form of tax credits for lower income earners, reduction in personal income tax rates, reductions in the business tax rate.
Eliminating the carbon tax would cut about $2.5 billion from government coffers.
Maintaining the tax benefits and cuts in the absence of the carbon tax would fall on government frugality, Cummins said.
“We need to spend smarter,” Cummins said.
“It’s how we spend it, that’s the problem.”
Part of the solution, Cummins said, would come in the form of legislative committees established during the fall session of the Legislative Assembly.
Typically, Cummins said, the fall session of the Legislative Assembly is dedicated to new legislation and amending existing legislation, while only addressing other important matters in a superficial manner.
Cummins told those gathered at the Aspen River Lodge, if elected, the Conservatives would establish legislative committees to review critically the government’s financial books, year-end reports, an exercise, he said, rarely done.