The first part of 2018 has been very busy. I’ve been travelling between Revelstoke, Golden, Invermere, and Kimberley to meet with constituents and community groups.
As always, I am grateful to hear from you; some of the best insight comes directly from those of you who are on the front line in our communities.
Trans Mountain Pipeline: This is an extremely polarizing topic in our province and in our nation. Thank you to those of you who have already voiced your opinion; I am always eager to hear from my constituents.
I remain steadfast in supporting this project, for several reasons.
1) This project was approved by the previous Provincial Government and the Federal Government. We must respect due process; it is the foundation of our democracy. Kinder Morgan has met all five of the stringent conditions to protect British Columbians. These were laid out by the Provincial and Federal Governments. Approval for projects of this magnitude are not taken lightly; these approvals were issued after years of research and consultation.
2) B.C. has worked hard for a reputation of stability. The hard-earned success of our Province has been attained by thoughtful consideration, consultation, and adhering to provincial and federal laws.
3) We need this project for a strong economy. The recent actions of our government are scaring off investors. “Affordability” is the buzzword for this BCNDP Government, but without investments like this, how can we grow our economy?
4) To be pro-pipeline does not mean you are against a clean environment. The pipeline is a more environmentally friendly option for rural B.C. Moving the oil by train will result in increased rail traffic which travels over and next to our rivers and land throughout Columbia River-Revelstoke.
5) Highway safety is one of the biggest concerns in the Columbia River-Revelstoke. Increased pressure on the railway translates into overflow freight being diverted on our highways. More semi-trailers on our highways is not what B.C. voted for.
The winter session started in February with the introduction of the BCNDP Budget, at which time the Minister of Finance announced a “more affordable life for us and our families.” This was the headline right before the government introduced us to $5.5 billion in increased or new taxes.
Carbon Tax: This tax was raised on April 1, and will continue to increase into 2021. We have immediately felt its effects by paying more at the pump. Of note, these additional monies were previously revenue neutral (the carbon tax went to projects associated with our environment under the B.C. Liberal Government). This has now been changed, the extra carbon tax is no longer revenue neutral, meaning that the government can divert this tax into general revenue. These funds can now be used for any project that the Government chooses (like maintaining Lower Mainland bridges). Yet again, rural B.C. is paying more with no promise of any local benefit.
Speculation Tax: This new tax was introduced by the BCNDP to curb the speculation buying in the Lower Mainland. Our constituency offices have heard from hundreds of homeowners from across B.C. and Canada; they have expressed a decreased confidence in doing business in our riding largely because of the way this tax has been introduced. Large projects have been put on hold in our communities. Many of these projects had construction-related jobs supporting families in our communities, and now these jobs are at risk. I have been a vocal opponent of this tax towards the Minister of Finance, and will continue to speak up against it. Canadians should be able to invest in Canada. Even though this tax has not been introduced in our constituency yet, we are still feeling the negative effects of the uncertainty that it has caused.
Employers Health Tax: We can all agree that the reduction of MSP Premiums by 50 per cent is a great development. Under the B.C. Liberal Government, this reduction was to be funded by the provincial surplus that had been created from the strongest economy in Canada.
Unfortunately this is not the case with our current government- they have created another tax to pay for this reduction, based on a percentage of a company’s payroll. We know that the size of the payroll does not reflect the margin of profit for businesses or organizations. This punitive tax approach has caused a lot of concern for small businesses, charities, not-for-profits, and school districts. One business here in the Columbia Valley called me to report that this new tax will cost him an additional $22,000 per year. This cost will be impossible to absorb without laying off some workers.
Capital Regional District Fuel Tax: This is another tax that is driving up the price of fuel. We used to pay 3.5 cents per litre to this tax, but it’s being raised to 5.5 cents per litre.
Other Tax Increases: Tobacco and alcohol taxes have also increased, and property transfer taxes have increased in several areas of the province.
Childcare Plan: We continue to hear from our constituents about several issues that were part of the 2017 BCNDP Campaign, including the whereabouts of the $10per day daycare promise. We’ve now learned the $10 per day plan will take 10 years to deliver. Instead, the government has introduced the Childcare Fee Reduction Initiative. The initiative is to help reduce the daycare fees for parents whose children are in licensed daycare centres. Unfortunately, the initiative was rolled out in such an incomplete way that only 23 per cent of B.C. childcare providers opted in to this initiative, to date. Daycares have a number of issues, shortage of staff being one of the largest. This childcare plan could have been streamlined with less confusion had there been some meaningful consultation with front-line childcare workers and daycares.