Kris Sims was one of the few people who did not before B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to ask for money.
The nine-person committee is currently touring the province, collecting public input in advance of the next provincial budget, and Sims, the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, drove from the Fraser Valley to Cranbrook, where the dommittee was in session Thursday.
She came armed with a top 10 list of items the CTF and its 15,000-strong B.C. membership wanted to see.
1. Balance the budget. “If there’s one thing that gets our supporters riled up, getting people writing letters to the editor and calling talk radio stations, they say ‘Balance our budget.’ They don’t like to see deficits, they don’t like to see province going further into debt, because they know what it does to their own household.”
2. Cancel the B.C. carbon tax. “People are fed up with it,” Sims said. “And top of that we found out during the last mini-budget that it’s not even going to revenue-neutral anymore, and it hasn’t been revenue neutral for several years. The Fraser Institute, one of our colleagues, found that the previous government had been taking old tax credits — years old — and adding them to the balance sheet of the current budget, for the carbon tax, to make it look balanced and neutral. It wasn’t. It was costing families $800 a year.”
3. Eliminate the Medical Services Plan premium: “We were very happy to see the MSP cut by 50 per cent by the previous government,” Sims said. “And this new government has committed to finishing it off — eliminating it 100 per cent.”
4. Stop raiding Crown Corporations: “If you’ve got a budget shortfall, don’t turn around and scoop money out of places like ICBC and BC Hydro,” Sims said. “We are ratepayers for those services, and when we see our money going to things other than auto insurance and hydro prices and just being used to paper over a budget shortfall, that really ticks people off.”
5. On ICBC: “We think it needs an overhaul, not just a tune-up,” Sims said. “We think ICBC should be turned into a co-op. Turn it into something like Mountain Equipment Co-op or VanCity. Make it owned by B.C. drivers, so if you choose to take your basic auto insurance out with this nice new ICBC co-op, you can do that. And then open that co-op up to private competition from other companies. So if you’re a great driver, you can shop around and get a lower rate.”
READ MORE: Critics call ICBC a ‘financial train wreck’
6. Don’t kill the Site C dam: “We say this with cautions,” Sims said. “By now, we’re in it. When we asked our supporters, they said don’t kill it, be as stringent and prudent and careful as possible, but we’ve invested so much money in it now, better to see it through. … If we bail out now, BC Hydro at least is saying that it will cost $7 billion.”
7. Get government contracts, including boards and councils, under control. “One of the heads of TransLink makes more than the Prime Minister of Canada, as does her second-in-command,” Sims said. “There are tons of boards like this, and they’re basically permanent government. People don’t hear about them or know about them, they’re not elected, but they’re paid an outrageous amount of money.”
8. Eliminate the vote tax: “The government has imposed a transition fund — a vote tax of $16 million that’s coming out of taxpayers’ pockets,” Sims said. “When you break it down per vote it doesn’t sound like a lot of money. But most people don’t want their tax dollar going to a lawn sign or an attack ad. If you’re running for any political party, raise your own money.”
9. Don’t block the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion: “We understand there are concerns,” Sims said. “We also understand the Trudeau Liberal government has approved it, and that lots and lots of people and lots of boards have reviewed this. If we rely on these important economic engines of our economy, and we allow them to continue things like Kinder Morgan, it helps the tax base.”
10. Reduce spending and lower taxes: “The men and women on the pre-budget committee are getting swamped with spending requests. We’re there to say stop. Cut your spending, and reduce our taxes. And as far as we can tell, we among the only people going to these meetings saying, ‘Please stop!’”
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation came into being as a response to the implementation of the goods and services tax in 1990.