British Columbia's New Democrats are proposing to increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations and add a new tax on real estate speculators to pay for a list of campaign promises that would add $1.3-billion in new spending in the first full year of an NDP government.
As the opposition party released its full platform on Thursday, just two days into the campaign for the May 9 election, it also said it would need a decade to fully enact its $10-a-day daycare system. When that happens, it would cost $1.5-billion a year, the party said.
While the party said its platform was fully costed, questions remain about how it would pay for it over the long term. The platform has no explanation of how the party plans to fund the daycare program once fully enacted, although NDP Leader John Horgan has talked about seeking federal funding. The first three years of a plan to lift tolls on two bridges would rely on half a billion dollars from raiding an LNG "prosperity fund," but the platform doesn't say what an NDP government would do once that money is gone. Still, Mr. Horgan said he was confident that the platform was sound.
"I am going to run on the platform that we have before us."
The NDP's platform release prompted immediate criticism from the governing Liberals and the third-place Greens, who both accused the NDP of risking the province's financial stability and pandering for votes. The release also means that voters now have full platforms from both main parties less than a week into the campaign. The BC Liberals released theirs on Monday.
Liberal candidate Mike de Jong, who has been B.C.'s finance minister, told a news conference the NDP plan would inevitably lead to higher taxes, and a decline in the province's credit rating.
"What the NDP have tabled today is not sustainable and cannot co-exist with a balanced budget," Mr. de Jong said.
Mr. de Jong also said he expected B.C. voters, wary about the risk of deficit budgets linked to the NDP program, would not support it despite various new grants and funds in such areas as postsecondary education that would go to voters.
Andrew Weaver, Leader of the BC Green Party, was dismissive. "It's a potpourri of promises," he said. "It's an 'I am desperate to govern plan.'"
But Mr. Horgan defended his program as affordable, sensible and fully costed, although he added that a balanced budget is contingent on the accuracy of numbers in the budget tabled this year by the Liberal government. The NDP plan budgets for three years, matching the duration of the Liberals' spending plans.
As expected, the NDP would restore a tax bracket for incomes over $150,000, generating $250-million per year. That top bracket was brought in as a temporary measure in the 2014 and 2015 tax years by the Liberal government but then eliminated for 2016. The NDP plan would also increase the general corporate income tax by a percentage point, bringing it to 12 per cent from 11 per cent.
The New Democrats would also add a new tax on real estate speculation. The NDP's proposal would introduce a 2 per cent annual tax on the value of homes owned by people who do not otherwise pay taxes in B.C. The party says the tax would raise $200-million – a projection linked to a study by the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business.
The platform does not spell out what would happen to the existing 15-per-cent tax on home purchases by foreign buyers in the Vancouver region, which was implemented last summer.
But the party is offering some tax cuts, including a commitment to stick to a half-point trim on the small-business tax rate.
New Democrats are projecting a surplus of $131-million in 2018-19 and $80-million in 2019-20.
In tabling the platform, the NDP shed some light on a few key promises.
The party would use the $500-million in the Liquefied Natural Gas Prosperity Fund, established by the Liberal government last year, to pay for eliminating tolls on the Port Mann Bridge and the Golden Ears Bridge. Beyond three years, when the Prosperity Fund is exhausted, Mr. Horgan talked about refinancing the bridges when asked how he would pay for a continued program of no tolls.
A promised $400-per-year subsidy to renters across B.C. would cost $200-million per year, the NDP said.
The party has also promised a freeze on BC Hydro rates.