Question Period in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 with Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, Finance Minister Carole James, and others:
T. Stone: To this point, we’ve yet to hear from the Minister of Municipal Affairs about the critical report on her government’s employer health tax from her largest stakeholder, the Union of B.C. Municipalities. But yesterday the Finance Minister’s message to communities was very, very clear: she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about the impacts of the downloading of millions of dollars onto the backs of local governments and local taxpayers. She doesn’t care that property taxes are going to go up across this province. She doesn’t care that local services are going to be cut across British Columbia.
Now the NDP has also advised British Columbians that they’re bringing back photo radar 2.0 to a community near you. And the Finance Minister has already advised…. She has already advised….
Mr. Speaker: Members, thank you. We shall hear the question.
T. Stone: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Minister of Finance has already advised the Union of B.C. Municipalities that she intends to claw back that revenue from local communities too.
My question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs is this: will she ensure that traffic violation revenue stays where it belongs — with municipalities?
Hon. C. James: The member talks about municipalities and the challenge that they face. We are continuing, as I said, to have conversations with charities and not-for-profits. As I said yesterday, it’s up to the municipalities how they determine their budgets. But if we take a look at the net costs in 2020, after the elimination of MSP premiums and the implementation of the payroll tax….
If municipalities were to put that entire burden on households, on residential properties…. Just a few examples. For example, in Duncan, that would cost an average household, per year, 46 cents. In Kelowna, that would cost an average household $4.84 a year. In Lake Country, that would cost $1.43 per year. In Maple Ridge, $10.50 a year — that’s if they made the choice to put all of those costs onto municipal properties.
When you are saving $900 a year as individuals and $1,800 a year as a family, you are better off in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
The member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a supplemental.
T. Stone: Well, the minister would very likely get a ticket for speeding. She drove right past the question. The question was about photo radar.
T. Stone: Clearly, we’ve touched a nerve here. Photo radar 2.0, coming to a community near you — only under the NDP.
When the Attorney General recently introduced their photo radar program, he said….
Mr. Speaker: Members, thank you.
T. Stone: The Attorney General said that “it was not a revenue generation piece” and that “revenues from tickets will go to local government.”
In fact, traffic violation revenue has gone exclusively to municipalities for the past 13 years. But the Minister of Finance has made it very clear that she’s going to grab this revenue.
Again to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the person who’s actually responsible for local government in this province: will she stop this needless NDP cash grab and ensure that traffic violation revenues stay where they belong? And that’s with the municipalities.
Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for this opportunity.
I’d like to make two points. The first is that with local governments…. They well know that there are changes in terms of how the red-light cameras are going to operate. What we have said is that we want to talk to them because of the new changes, which require no additional costs to municipalities. We want to discuss with them where that additional revenue goes.
We have indicated to them that there will be no change in the amount of revenue that they will continue to receive. There will be no change. But what I find really ironic, what I find particularly interesting is that member over there using the term “cash grab” when they — when he was on this side of the House — plundered ICBC for almost $1.3 million.
While we’re on the topic of cash grab, how about at B.C. Hydro, where they took deferral accounts to a new level? They racked up, by plundering Hydro through deferral accounts, more than all of the other provinces combined.
In terms of cash grabs, who can forget the doubling of MSP premiums under that government when they sat on this side of the House? Who can forget the downloading that they placed on local government when they wouldn’t fund salary increases for teachers? Again, another cash grab put onto the backs of hard-working British Columbians.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Minister.
Hon. M. Farnworth: And finally, that member should not talk about speeding tickets.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
M. Morris: The minister does as good a job in deflecting the question as a radar detector does in detecting radar going down the road there.
The NDP won’t say how much money they will rake in from the new photo radar program, but they’ve already told municipalities they intend to claw back the revenue.
The new employer health tax will already put the municipality of Prince George on the hook for an additional $1.3 million next year, and now traffic violation revenue of over $1.1 million will be clawed back. This puts programs in Prince George, like the radar speed camera display screens that we have in the high-traffic areas, at risk.
To the Minister of Municipal Affairs, will she admit she’s made a mistake and stop her needless cash grab?
Hon. M. Farnworth: I am a little surprised at that question coming from that member, because we’ve made it really clear that there will be no clawback of the revenue. But, more importantly, let’s look at what the purpose of these red-light camera activations is all about. Frankly, I hope there’s no increase in revenue. I hope that there’s no increase, because what we want is people to start to pay attention, to start driving safely.
I am sure that that member, when he was a police officer, more than once had to go knock on the door of somebody’s house and tell them tragic news because somebody had driven drunk, had sped through a red light or sped over a bridge at a very high speed and caused a tragic accident. That’s why those changes are taking place. That’s why it’s being done. And if we don’t see a single cent of increased revenue but we save lives because of that, I’ll be an extremely happy minister.
Source: BC Hansard