Both echoing similar opinions, MLA for Kootenay East Tom Shypitka and Columbia-River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok expressed their frustrations at the 2020 Provincial Budget.
The Provincial Government says that the budget will help to make life more affordable for B.C. residents, however, Clovechok disagrees.
“The question that I’ve challenged them to do is ask yourself: are you better off than you were two and a half years ago? The reason I ask them that question is that the NDP campaigned on the concept of affordability,” said Clovechok. “That’s the mantra that they’ve had for two and a half years, in fact, that hasn’t happened. When you look at this budget and break it down, from the last two and a half years including this budget, they’ve introduced 20 new taxes since they took over.”
Shypitka said that taxes are likely to go up under the new budget, with British Columbians shouldering the increase.
“We’re going to see costs skyrocket, we’re going to be seeing about an $8.8 billion tax burden on the constituents of B.C. by 2022. That’s about an extra $2,300 per family if you want to break it down,” said Shypitka.
The B.C. Government said that it will invest more than $1 billion over three years for low and middle-income homes through the province, a promise which Clovechok feels has fallen short so far.
“Housing starts are down dramatically in this province and people just aren’t going to have a place to live, I think they’re down about 22% last year. They promised us 114,000 affordable homes and given the track that they’re on right now, if you use today’s statistics and the behaviours that we’ve seen in the last two and a half years, in order for them to get to 114,000 homes, it would take them 98 years,” said Clovechok.
A new tax which the B.C. NDP is proposing is a provincial sales tax on sweetened carbonated beverages, which aims to offset the growing health costs and impacts caused by the drinks. The B.C. Government said that this tax is advocated for my health professionals, and youth between 14 and 18 are the top consumers of pop.
Shypitka and Clovechok, however, feels that it is simply another way to get money from consumers.
“They’ve run out of things to tax. What really makes me upset is that they’re capitalizing on habits of everyday British Columbians. Now, yes, I agree that sugary drinks are probably not a very healthy choice for people,” said Shypitka. “But if they think they’re going to curtail consumption of sugary drinks because they’re slapping another 7% on them, it’s been tried before and it’s not going to happen now.”
“You know they’re out of money when they start to tax pop. That’s all carbonated drinks and that includes everything to do with sugar and artificial sweetening, and that’s fine but it’s another tax that people will have to pay at the counter,” explained Clovechok.
In addition to the sales tax on sugary drinks, the B.C. Government is proposing the addition of PST onto streaming services, which Clovechok said does not bode well for the government.
“They’re taxing Netflix and Disney for goodness sake, I mean seriously, I have people in my riding that live from cheque to cheque, they have a family and they’re doing okay, but they’re not doing cable TV anymore because it’s too expensive. They’ve gone to Netflix and other platforms, now they’re going to be paying PST on Netflix,” Clovechok said to MyEastKootenayNow.com. “What that tells me is that these guys have completely run out of money except for our money.”
Clovechok also spoke of his concern over a lack of attention being given to wildlife and forest fire initiatives.
“There is nothing in this budget whatsoever on wildlife, nothing, zero, yet we are in a wildlife crisis in the East Kootenay. One of the things that keeps me awake at night is wildfire. We’ve seen what’s happened over the last eight months with Australia, and we don’t know what’s coming, thank goodness we didn’t have that last year,” Clovechok said. “That keeps me up at night, yet barely a mention of wildfire mitigation.”
With the proposals the B.C. Government is making with the budget draft, both Clovechok and Shypitka feel that it falls short in their respective areas.
Chlocechok, speaking as a critic of tourism, spoke of the budget drawing back from the industry.
“Everything has been cut back, yet tourism outstrips mining, logging and agriculture. It’s an $18.2 billion industry yet they’re cutting back,” Clovechok explained. “When I look at those numbers, all the things associated with the tourism budget from Destination BC, through sporting events and culture everything else, everything has been reduced in terms of the millions of dollars in each of those lines. My question is going to be: why are you cutting back on an industry that generates more than forestry, more than mining and more than agriculture? Because they’re broke.”
As a critic of energy and mines, Shypitka said that the mining sector will see cutbacks in the new budget as well.
“We have not seen one new mine since this government took over, and yet in their budget, it’s been decreased. Even worse, they’ve taken money from permitting processes, which is stopping these mines from starting. They’ve taken money from that department, and put it into the enforcement side,” said Shypitka. “It’s pretty hard to enforce something that’s not there. It really troubles me to see where this government is going, it’s shutting down our revenue side with our industry, and they’re increasing our expense side.”
Overall, both Shypitka and Clovechok feel that the budget does not have a lot of positives for BC residents.
“We’re not out of the game yet, we’re very disappointed in what is really a tax and spend initiative with no plan for the economy, no plan for jobs. It’s going to somehow magically show up and that’s not how you govern a province,” said Clovechok.