B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the province is finally in a position, after years of restraint, to provide respite for low-income British Columbians in the budget he presents on Tuesday. What he is less eager to mention is that the province's highest-income earners are in line for a tax break as well.
"You are going to see, with the little bit of room the surpluses create for us, some changes that I believe assist lower-income British Columbians in a variety of ways," he told reporters Monday as he picked up his resoled budget shoes at a repair shop in downtown Victoria. "That is one of the options we have as a society when our books are in order, when we do have a balanced budget."
The B.C. Liberal government has been criticized for digging out of deficit on the backs of families and low-income earners, who have faced a myriad of rate hikes – medical service premiums, electricity rates, auto insurance premiums and more.
Two years ago, on the eve of the last election, the BC Liberals imposed a surtax on those individuals earning $150,000 or more per year. But that tax, which brings in $227-million annually, came with a sunset clause and will be lifted on Jan. 1, 2016.
This midterm budget promises to be the province's third consecutive surplus, and Mr. de Jong said the three-year plan will project balanced budgets that will carry the government into the next 2017 provincial election. He said there is no reason to continue with the additional tax on high-income earners.
"It was introduced for a specific purpose and we gave an undertaking – I gave an undertaking – that in order to move British Columbia firmly into the black on the ledger sheet, we asked those making a little more to pay a little more," Mr. de Jong said.
The 2013 tax measure was part of a pre-election package that also hiked corporate taxes for the first time in the BC Liberals' dozen years in power. At that time, Premier Christy Clark said the tax redistribution was "balanced, in every sense of the word."
But NDP Leader John Horgan said he is still waiting for Ms. Clark to meet her pre-election commitment to reduce the government's burden on families. "Maybe she is going to deliver this week," he said in an interview.
Mr. Horgan said he is hoping the government will back down on the clawback of welfare benefits from single parents – an issue the NDP has championed for a year. The province currently claws back court-ordered child-support payments made to single parents on income or disability assistance, a measure that brings in $18-million annually.
He promised that NDP social development critic Michelle Mungall "will do a victory lap" if that change is made. "Certainly we'll take credit for the clawback … but I'll wait and see the numbers before I pat them on the back for anything else," Mr. Horgan said.