Excerpts from an exchange between Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal MLA Todd Stone and Powell River-Sunshine Coast NDP MLA Nicholas Simons in the Legislature on Monday, May 14, 2018.
T. Stone: All members come to this chamber with the same intentions in mind. I believe that that really boils down to coming here with good intentions — to offer ideas, to debate changes to public policy, to make a difference and to help people, to help our constituents, to help British Columbians.
We differ on how to get there, on how to ensure that these objectives are best met. I’m proud to get up each morning to go to work as part of a team that is focused on advocating for everything that can be done to create jobs and opportunities for British Columbians. On this side of the House, the official opposition members are united in our core values, which are rooted in championing the spirit and the drive of the individual. These core values are rooted in recognizing that a strong, growing economy is the only way resources are available to do what really matters and why we are all here. That is to encourage opportunity for all British Columbians, to make investments in the services that people need.
To make all of this possible, it means encouraging risk-taking, celebrating entrepreneurship, generally getting government out of the way of the private sector so that it can do what it does best, and that’s to create good-paying, family-supporting jobs. It means valuing investments in the public services that we all depend on: education, health care, environmental protection, to name a few; investments in our communities and investments in our loved ones….
Of course, we know that the Medical Services Plan premiums are being replaced with the new employer health tax. This will hurt organizations, from small businesses to school districts to non-profits. It means that businesses will be dissuaded from expanding. It means that jobs will be lost for some. It means higher costs to consumers. It also means higher property taxes. In Kamloops, the community that I represent, it means an additional hit of $700,000 per year in property tax, which will have to be paid by local taxpayers.
Tolls will be replaced with a higher carbon tax. There’s a development cost charge tax that’s coming from TransLink. The government is talking about mobility pricing in the not too distant future. Of course, there’s the new speculation tax, which has nothing to do with speculation. There’s the school tax on luxury homes, which has nothing to do with schools. There’s the hydro rate hike of 3 percent, even though there was a commitment not to do that. And photo radar is coming to an intersection near you, which will represent nothing more than another tax grab for motorists in British Columbia.
There are some who want everyone to pay more tax. Folks’ costs are going up. So much for the much-vaunted focus on affordability. And lost in all of this is the simple reality that there is only one taxpayer.
N. Simons: Well, it’s amusing a little bit, on Monday morning, to hear the fiction being relayed. It’s almost like a series of extended cliché sports interviews when the former minister responsible for the destruction of ICBC gets to stand up and wax eloquent about the needs of our province — as if he knows.
The title of the statement was: “There Is Only One Taxpayer”. Well, you know, the way I look our system…. We have a lot of people who contribute to the betterment of our society. We have a lot of people who contribute what they can afford to the betterment of society. Because we want to make sure our streets are safe. We want to make sure our children are well-educated in our school system. We want to make sure that our systems of protecting the environment are adequate.
But this former minister, who had his own wake of destruction in his career, is now talking about how, somehow, paying taxes is a punishment, as if somehow he’s not been a singular beneficiary of the generosity of the people of this province in order to get where he got today — for his daughters, who he brings up constantly.
The success of our communities is in their safety, in our economy, in running our system well, and that does involve the contribution of British Columbians to the well-being of our communities. Different people pay different amounts of tax. We try to make it fair. We try to make it so it isn’t a bunch of regressive taxes punishing the least who can afford it.
You know, this member was part of a government that systematically made life less affordable for middle-income and lower-income people in this province. He looked out for his 2 percent, who he talked about proudly just now. He looked out for his 2 percent. He looked out for the richest of the rich and the most powerful of the powerful.
What we have to do here is regain a little bit of balance in this beautiful province. We have to make sure that we invest properly to ensure that our food systems are safe. We have to make sure that we invest properly so that our children have the proper resources in their schools.
This is a member who spent a lot of time making things very difficult for families in this province, raising money to pay for playgrounds for their schools….
I, quite frankly, like it when I see a school go up, a new school. Guess who pays for that new school? It’s his family. It’s people in Kamloops. It’s people in Fort St. John. It’s people in Powell River. We all contribute to a better system of government. We all contribute to better public services….
Yeah, there are many taxpayers. There are many people who are served by the services provided by this government, by the province of British Columbia. We’re proud of those services. We’re just going to make them stronger.
T. Stone: There’s nothing like a vigorous, high energy debate first thing on Monday morning.
The simple fact of the matter is this: this current government inherited one of the strongest balance sheets in the history of this province — almost a $3 billion surplus. In that context, this is a government that has decided to increase taxes by $5.5 billion over three years.
When the member opposite sits there and spews his rhetoric about the former government’s record, let me refresh his memory on a couple of points. Child poverty actually decreased by 42 percent during our time in office. We had the best health care outcomes across the country. Our children were doing amongst the best in the world in most subjects. We built billions of dollars’ worth of world-class infrastructure in every corner of the province, and we had amongst the highest take-home pay levels in all of Canada.
Now, in the context of that robust economic growth, that exceptional job creation record — a triple-A credit rating, a $3 billion surplus — the members opposite, the new government, decide it’s a good time to impose $5.5 billion over three years onto the shoulders of British Columbians.
Deputy Speaker: Members.
T. Stone: It makes you ask, what would the motivation for this be? Is it because the members opposite come by it naturally? Is it because they do believe that more government is better than less? I would suggest that that’s partially the reason.
Is it that they don’t believe that the province’s balance sheet was as strong as it was when they inherited it? I don’t think that could be the case, because the Finance Minister spends a lot of time trumpeting the strong economic record that is in place. And it’s not due to any economic miracle of the current government.
Or is it because — and I think this is what is probably the driving motivation — the government has got massive spending plans in mind? Public sector union contract negotiations begin to come up in the months ahead. Perhaps this is a government that’s decided they need to squirrel away as many chestnuts as possible in order to be able to afford the continued ramp-up in spending that we’re going to see.
At the end of the day, it’s British Columbians that have to pay this bill. It’s British Columbians that have to foot the bill for this government’s decision to crank up spending and, as a result of that, crank up taxes while they’re at it.
Source: BC Hansard.